The Blachniks spent part of Christmas Day visiting the kitchen space at the Cobalt Activity Center Gini Davis/The Chronicle
It isn’t ”pretty” yet, but construction and installation of Creswell Food Pantry/Community Food for Creswell (CFFC)’s new 900-square-foot commercial kitchen at the Cobalt Activity Center is well underway, with completion about two months out, said Pantry manager Susan Blachnik.
Underfloor plumbing has been installed and passed inspection, and new concrete will be poured over the pipe next week. With the help of Creswell’s Public Works crew, a 1,000-gallon concrete grease interceptor has been installed underground outside the kitchen and is partially covered. The facility doors have been rekeyed, and a small paint room has been removed by ”a handful of CRRC volunteers,” said Blachnik, whose husband Kurt has consistently provided labor to the project as needed.
”It took Kurt a week to jackhammer and dig through the footings,” Blachnik said. ”There were four live conduits, one live electrical main, a water line and two lengths of rebar. It was the only path to connect the indoor plumbing to the outside grease interceptor buried underground.”
Next, a wall will be constructed to cover the electrical conduit and gas pipe; an open area in the ceiling will be closed; the electrician will install new lights and wiring for the appliances; and the wall will be covered with white fiberglass-reinforced plastic. Appliances go in last, Blachnik said.
Once the kitchen is running, it will serve prepared meals alongside existing Pantry food distribution, offer cooking and food preservation classes, and be available for rent as a commercial kitchen for food- and beverage-related start-up businesses.
A variety of cooking and food preservation classes will be provided in partnership with Food for Lane County and OSU Extension. Children will be taught basic kitchen self-sufficiency. Adults will be taught essential cooking skills, use of nutrition labels and techniques to shop for high-quality food despite financial limitations. Food Pantry customers can learn methods to prepare foods such as dried beans, rice and seasonal produce.
”We are really excited to begin monthly food preservation classes,” Blachnik said. ”Master Food Preservers will instruct people in skills to can salsa, dried beans, lemon curd, jams, summer vegetables and much more.”
CFFC’s initial plan was to serve a free weekly community meal in the Cobalt’s multipurpose room – but that plan is on hold because the City charges a use fee of $2,080 per year, a hardship for the nonprofit. For the time being, a revised food program consisting of warm meals and take-home frozen entrees will be provided at the Pantry on Thursdays, where CFFC currently serves an average of 60 families each week. The goal is providing 1,200 meals per month.
”We know that our most important goal is to provide food to the hungry in Creswell, but we are saddened that the City’s $2,080-per-year use fee is a barrier to our community dinner,” Blachnik said. ”Eating at a table together can facilitate diverse friendships and decrease social isolation.”
The kitchen will be available to licensed and insured start-up businesses for the production of value-added foods. CFFC, Blachnik said, ”will model the policy of Food for Lane County’s two kitchen rental sites.”
More information will be provided in the coming weeks.
FOOD PANTRY AND COMMUNITY KITCHEN: A TIMELINE
July 2018 – Creswell City Manager Michelle Amberg, Creswell City Council and CFFC begin conversations about a project to install a commercial kitchen at the Cobalt Activity Center. “CFFC was interested in using a commercial kitchen for food programs and classes, but the project moved forward under the direction of the City of Creswell,” Blachnik said. When city funding for the project could not be found, the project was turned over to CFFC.
October 2018 – Creswell City Council approves a new lease agreement with CFFC, allowing them use of a 900 square-foot space within the Cobalt Activity Center at no cost, for 20 years with a five-year lease option. CFFC will have exclusive use of the space and may rent the site to others. Community Food for Creswell begins planning and fundraising for the installation of the commercial kitchen project, with a renovation and equipment budget of $212,440.
July 2019 – After nine months of fundraising that reached just 50% of their financial goal, CFFC reduced costs by $86,900 by making minor changes to the appliance list, purchasing equipment through Taylor Restaurant Equipment and working with Creswell contractors.
Nov. 2019 – With the project now fully funded, equipment was ordered, including appliances, worktables, a large walk-in cooler, fire suppression hood and sinks. All building permits were purchased by the City of Creswell.
April 2020 – Over the next six to eight weeks, CFFC will continue electrical, structural and plumbing renovations, with the goal of launching food programs – in early April.