Something could be cooking in area community kitchens


1-C-Community-KitchenBy Kate Jackman-Atkinson

The Neepawa Banner/Neepawa Press

For food entrepreneurs looking to bring their products to market, access to an inspected commercial kitchen is a necessity. With a few exceptions, Manitoba Health requires that all food products sold in the province be prepared in a kitchen that holds a Food Service Establishment permit issued by Manitoba Health, which is an expensive undertaking for someone just getting started in the industry. 

One of the solutions is for food entrepreneurs to rent space in existing commercial kitchens. Organized by Neepawa’s Economic Development office, last month, Jayne Kjaldgaard, of Manitoba Agriculture’s Food and Agri-Processing branch, spoke to a group in Neepawa about the province’s list of community kitchens available for rent. 

Located in halls, churches and rinks, Kjaldgaard explained that there are many inspected commercial kitchens that could be available for rent. The eight or so attendees at the Neepawa meeting included both kitchen owners and potential renters.

Kjaldgaard also talked about the province’s rules for food sold at farmers’ markets, which are seen as venue to help food entrepreneurs test the waters with their products. At farmers’ markets, vendors are allowed to sell products that haven’t been made in an approved kitchen, provided they don’t contain any potentially hazardous foods.  Manitoba Health inspectors consider potentially hazardous foods to include meat or meat products, poultry or poultry products, milk or milk products or any food with these products as ingredients.  This means that products such as homemade perogies, cabbage rolls, sandwiches and cream-filled pastries can only be sold if they’ve been made, packaged and labelled by an approved establishment. If food entrepreneurs want to sell in any other venue, their food must be prepared in an approved kitchen.

The province’s commercial kitchens for rent listing has been in operation for 15 months and to date, 30 kitchens have signed up, none of which are in the Neepawa area. The listing also includes pictures of the kitchens and their equipment. Kjaldgaard explained that there is no cost to be on the list and to be included, kitchens must have a current permit from Manitoba Health and must be willing to rent to food entrepreneurs.  Facilities making themselves available for rent must let Manitoba Health know and any renters must also have a permit from Manitoba Health, which is available at no charge.

Kitchens on the list are responsible for setting their own rates and schedules. Kjaldgaard said that some kitchens charge a flat rate, while others have a base rate and then added charges depending on what the renter needs to use, such as ovens, fridges or mixers. 

In addition to another revenue stream, kitchen which are available for rent also have access to funding for equipment upgrades. Kjaldgaard talked about their funding program, in its third year, which offers grants to help purchase equipment specifically for rentals, as opposed to catering. This program is available to not for profit kitchen owners and and has helped facilities purchase commercial grade stoves, freezers and fridges, 20 quart mixers, piston fillers and dough sheeters.