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Wholesome Youngsters Inc., Mon County Heart making a mannequin meals hub

MORGANTOWN — When former Monongalia County Commissioner Ed Hawkins pitched the thought to incorporate an industrial group kitchen as a part of the Mon County Heart, he seemingly didn’t envision that within two years it could develop into a part of a nationwide mannequin for the central kitchen idea. 

However that’s precisely what’s occurred due to the venue’s relationship with its very first consumer, Wholesome Youngsters Inc. 

Since 2021, Wholesome Youngsters has gone from getting ready 80 nutrient-dense, domestically sourced meals from scratch every day to 1,000. 

These meals are delivered to childcare facilities throughout Monongalia, Marion, Taylor and Harrison counties, in addition to the Smart Path Restoration Heart in Westover. 

“The Mon County Heart has develop into a mannequin for different kitchens throughout the state, to create different hubs throughout the state. It’s a mannequin that others at the moment are utilizing. They’re coming to the kitchen and eager to see. It’s really grown even past West Virginia,” Wholesome Youngsters co-founder Mandy Curry defined. 

The kitchen lately hosted a consultant of Bezos Academy, a community of tuition-free Montessori-inspired preschools funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.  

“They’re eager to do central kitchens for all their Montessori colleges throughout the nation. They picked 13 central kitchens throughout the nation to take a look at and we had been one among them,” Curry stated. “They sought us out.” 

Fairly spectacular. 

However they’re simply getting began. 

The subsequent section of the county’s kitchen, centered on meals preservation, is anticipated to return on line this month. 

“We’re within the means of getting our producer’s license too, so that can enable us to do extra issues out of the preservation kitchen, one among which is the creation of particular person meals, frozen meals, that may be produced out of that kitchen and despatched to different components of the state – senior meals, after college meals, no matter it may be. We’ll have that capacity,” Curry stated. 

Aiding that course of can be funds from an Appalachian Regional Fee (ARC) Energy Grant. ARC lately awarded the West Virginia Meals and Farm Coalition $1,134,341, a few of which is able to come to Wholesome Youngsters over the subsequent three years as a part of ARC’s intention to develop the agricultural sector, promote financial development and help entry to domestically sourced meals. 

Curry stated the company has a objective of manufacturing a million meals out of a number of kitchens in that time-frame.  

Mary Hastings, who works on behalf of the Wholesome Youngsters nonprofit, Mission Wholesome Youngsters, stated these funds may also be used to help native farmers. 

“As a part of the ARC Energy Grant, we’re working to ascertain the Mon County Heart as extra of a meals hub than it already is. If there are any farmers inquisitive about promoting into the entrepreneurial kitchen, we’re seeking to purchase native produce, beef, eggs and issues like that,” Hastings stated. “Additionally, by means of our companions on the West Virginia Meals and Farm Coalition, they’re going to supply technical help for farmers who need to develop their capability or their manufacturing plans.” 

These can attain Hastings at [email protected]

Wholesome Youngsters makes use of the kitchen from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday by means of Friday, however it’s obtainable for lease across the clock. 

“It’s a full-scale, multi-use kitchen,” Mon County Heart Director Rachel Mitchell stated. “We do evenings and weekends. It was designed to be a 24-hour kitchen. We will do quite a bit in there.” 

Contact Mitchell at [email protected] or 304-291-9128 to inquire about renting the group kitchen. 

Each Curry and members of the Monongalia County Fee stated Mitchell has been instrumental in making this partnership work. Curry famous the assets included within the $400,000 kitchen are additionally central to the early success. 

“What makes all that work is the gear. You geared up it so properly to have the ability to do what it does. Issues just like the blast chiller; that’s a present for communities to have that. Many don’t have that. There’s gear right here that’s fantastic for the group and it’s going to assist lots of people,” Curry stated. “I don’t know … it’s simply good.”