New initiatives are happening in Kensington and for Impact Hub Philadelphia, it’s a community kitchen that will serve as a gateway for bringing together more than food and the community.
Impact Hub’s Kitchen Project Manager Laurel Klein and Campaign Director Tom Wingert are planning to set the table for entrepreneurs, artists, nonprofits, activists, innovators and the community to improve the way Philadelphia eats and relates with food.
To complete the project, Impact Hub has already taken the initiative to create a $100,000 fundraising campaign through events like Sowing the Seeds, a town hall-style informative meeting, a Lettuce Turnip the Beet! dance party and A Brew HaHa! The latter featured a meal curated by Highland’s Dinner Club, live music provided by the Belleville Quartet, signature cocktails, beer and more.
“We had about 150 people here and everybody that came to the table was invested in food justice and sustainability,” Klein said. “It was really an incredible night.”
Though there are currently more than 50 Impact Hubs around the world and two other community kitchens in the Philadelphia area – Enterprise Center and Greensgrow Community Kitchen – Impact Hub envisions its kitchen serving as a model for others worldwide.
“We bring together businesses, organizations and individuals who care about social impact,” Klein said. “Some refer to us as an ecosystem of caring communities. Everybody that comes here cares about making a difference and cares about their community.”
The kitchen is curated around social impact areas such as education, health benefits, food security, economic opportunities, environmental sustainability and hunger alleviation. And because Impact Hub has already engaged in partnerships with 20 different organizations, it’s limitless with what they can do. Some organizations may offer food and nutrition educational programs or hands-on cooking demonstrations. Food entrepreneurs can pilot their products for the market.
Jaison Smulski, the graphic designer for Witty Gritty – a social enterprise that uses creativity and connection to engage change in the city – has worked with his team and Klein on the logistics and planning of the Lettuce Turnip the Beet and A Brew HaHa! events. Smulski said he thinks the community kitchen will have a positive impact on Philadelphia.
“It will allow for a lot of different things like education and training,” he said. “Smaller businesses can use it to their benefit. This area is what some people call, ‘a food desert’ because it’s hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Jermaine Jenkins, responsible for community and corporate outreach and sponsorship and event logistics at Witty Gritty, also thinks the community kitchen will positively leave a lasting impression.
“The kitchen being here will help with catering needs,” Jenkins said. “That’s how I’m looking at the kitchen. I think it will be a good thing for the neighborhood in general and also for the Hub. It will be convenient to have the space here for all the organizations that are involved and all the potential organizations that are coming on board.”
With hopes to have the kitchen completed and opened by the end of the year, there’s not much left to be done. The pipes are in, the gas is hooked up and water is ready to flow. The hood vents and equipment, however, are yet to be installed.
“I think once the kitchen is actually built, it will give us room to talk about Impact Hub more,” Jenkins said.
In the meantime, Impact Hub is seeking sponsorships and stakeholders to assist in obtaining the Hub’s financial goal of $100,000 to complete the kitchen.
Current levels of social impact areas, like education and innovation for a sponsorship of $1,000, include a one-year community level membership at Impact Hub, brand and logo exposure, physical presence at events and more.
Others, like economic opportunities for a sponsorship of $5,000, include a right to renew annual title sponsorship and benefits from being a globally distributed Impact Hub member and company highlight.
For $10,000, a hunger, health, food security and sustainability sponsorship level provides outro sponsor recognition in more than 100 member-produced videos.
The highest sponsorship, community building, costs $20,000 and includes facilitated business leads, a space in Impact Hub and other benefits.
Klein mentioned these organizations and sponsors don’t always collaborate with each other and operate by themselves.
“One of the main goals is to bring these different pioneers and different stakeholders together because we can make such a better and bigger impact if we work together collectively instead of trying to reinvent the wheel or work separately,” she said. “We’re creating a container where people can come together, showcase their ideas and be creative, innovative and collaborative.”
Though Impact Hub is already well on its way to completing the project, the final details and help from other organizations is all that separates the community kitchen from the community of Philadelphia.
– Text, video and images by Shauna Bannan and Anna Ryan