We are preparing to begin renovation on our basement to transform it into a fully-equipped teaching kitchen and multipurpose space. The space will be used for our youth programs, adult workshops, events, and more.
Stay tuned for updates on our progress! Take a peek above at our inspiration board created by Spaces Design Studio here in Fredericksburg!
Project Background One of our most rewarding and impactful activities has been our monthly community dinner hosted by our Youth Farm Program (YFP) participants, staff and volunteers, and a chef from one the many amazing local restaurants. The dinners allow our youth to interact with food from seed to table—preparing and serving dishes made with fresh fruits and vegetables they have grown themselves in the YFP garden.
Participants cook the meal, prepare the table, and serve their families, friends, and other members of the community on-site at Downtown Greens. These dinners are often a high point in our program participants’ time with us, allowing them to experience a sense of pride and accomplishment while feeding a never-disappointed audience—think Master Chef Jr. meets Big Brother Big Sister meets a lot of happy bellies!
They also serve as a nexus of socioeconomic and cultural cross-pollination, being geographically positioned at the center of a variety of communities and acting as a hub for the preparation free meals for members of our community.
The Problem Despite the success of these dinners and events, we have one big obstacle—our kitchen! Our current kitchen—located in our facility’s basement—is about 11'x16' with one stove right by the door, one small sink, limited counter space, and a window air conditioning unit.
This small space makes it impossible to have more than four people in the kitchen at once—hindering the teaching and communal cooking aspects of the dinners. Like we always do—in downpours and in the hot days of summer—we’ve made it work by setting up folding tables for food preparation outside, but we see an opportunity to greatly expand on our space’s capability and utility both to our in-house youth programs and to the local community as a whole.
Project Goal Going forward, we would like to transform our basement—currently used for storage and a workshop space—into a modular teaching kitchen and multipurpose space that is more than twice as big as the current kitchen.
We envision a space where a dozen or more of our kids could gather 'round a prep space to watch a chef prepare a sauce. A space where our Afghan and Salvadoran families can trade recipes and compare use of different herbs and vegetables. Where youth can learn skills that will carry them through the rest of their life and allow them to then feed their families and communities. A space where adults could attend a workshop on canning tomatoes, or start a club that meets weekly to discuss herbal medicine. Where the cross pollination that is the life blood of so many of our relationships can gather around one thing we all love and need—good food!
The Plan Leaning on our amazing former board member Jason Gallant and his team at Rappahannock Restoration and the amazing design team at Spaces Design Studio, as well as grants and gifts from The Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region's Youth In Philanthropy, and Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, we are in a position to create an incredibly functional, accessible, aesthetically pleasing space at a fraction of the cost — but we need your help! We already have $10,500 and an additional $10,000 in kitchen equipment committed to the project but need to raise $40,000 more!
While the space may evolve to suit the needs of our participants, we want to have the kitchen fully functional, able to serve our community by April of 2021. We have the funds to begin the project now, but with your support, we can do even more!
Impact The past year of wrestling with and confronting public health, housing and food insecurity, and a host of social issues has exposed great needs and great divides in our communities. We at Downtown Greens believe this space will provide yet another tool for us to address these needs.
Beyond simply feeding our neighbors, we hope to examine and address deeper obstacles to food insecurity. We hope that this space will continue to be a springboard to allow us to address the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of our community and continue to foster stewardship and connection to the natural world and to one another. And we hope you can be a part of that—we’ll have an apron and seat at the table ready for you!
Downtown Greens 206 Charles Street Fredericksburg, Va 22401