Another heaping helping of generosity is fortifying our collaborative Kitchen Council, the region’s largest incubator for food entrepreneurs. Project supporter Conagra Brands recently donated several pieces of professional-grade equipment, including serving tables, table top and floor mixers, a refrigerator and pizza cooker. It’s the third in series of Conagra-driven donations aimed at developing, launching and now supporting Kitchen Council.
“Our Research & Development team initially became involved over a year ago with a generous contribution to help get the program started,” says Tom Frain, Director – Culinary, Research and Development, Conagra Brands, and a member of Kitchen Council’s advisory board.
He continues, “Watching this program grow and develop, I began to identify additional opportunities to strengthen the program and help the entrepreneurs grow their businesses, which resulted in the most recent donation of professional-grade kitchen equipment.”
Launched in February, the 2,500-square-foot Kitchen Council facility includes a fully-equipped commercial kitchen, as well as access to business-development assistance and additional resources – all aimed at increasing startup success and expanding inclusivity in “the new food economy.”
“Conagra Brands has been an enthusiastic Kitchen Council champion from the very beginning, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the company’s latest donation and how it will support our makers,” says Holly Benson Muller, Kitchen Council’s managing director.
Frain spoke about his affinity for the program, and why Conagra Brands is so keen on supporting it: “Our relationship with the Greater Omaha Chamber and Kitchen Council is deep and robust, and I’ve been so happy to see this program grow and the entrepreneurs succeed. As a food company, we saw a natural fit, and our involvement quickly evolved from cash contributions and kitchen equipment donations, into an opportunity for Conagra employees to share professional skills and knowledge, as well.”
Omaha is home to Conagra Brands’ largest base of employees with 1,200 employees at its downtown Omaha campus and an additional 700 employees at its facility in Council Bluffs – employees who share Frain’s enthusiasm for creating new food opportunities through shared resources.
“I was fascinated with the Kitchen Council program from the very beginning and immediately stepped up to represent Conagra at the official launch and have been involved ever since,” Frain says. “As a chef, I love the incredible energy that is created in the kitchen. When you add into the mix the fresh approach of these food entrepreneurs who so often are inspired by local ingredients and unique flavor profiles, the results can be amazing. Just as I look forward to the opportunity to interact and share my experience and knowledge with the other chefs in this kitchen, I am excited by the opportunity of what I can learn from the diverse perspectives and approaches in this unique and innovative culinary space.”
“Conagra Brands is an outstanding corporate citizen, quick to support the community through employee volunteerism, financial support and product donations like those helping to accelerate our Kitchen Council program,” says Greater Omaha Chamber President and CEO David G. Brown of Conagra’s transformative influence on the region.
Pete Tulipana, CEO of the Iowa West Foundation, which is a Kitchen Council partner, echoed Brown’s remarks, “Iowa West Foundation’s vision emphasizes a community where businesses want to locate,” said Pete Tulipana, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “Through Conagra’s generous donation, members of Kitchen Council will have access to more and better professional grade equipment, in addition to expertise on sales and distribution. We believe this is a recipe for food businesses to thrive.”
The startup accelerator, currently located at 40 Arena Way in Council Bluffs, will expand to its colocation, the PACE Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center, in 2019.
About Kitchen Council
Kitchen Council, a project of the Greater Omaha Chamber and community partners, Iowa West Foundation, Council Bluffs Chamber, Conagra Brands, Iowa Economic Development Authority, is a food accelerator designed to lower barriers to market entry – a strategy that increases startup success and expands inclusivity into “the new food economy.”
The 2,500-square foot Kitchen Council facility includes a fully-equipped commercial kitchen, as well as access to business-development assistance and additional resources. The startup accelerator will expand to its colocation, the PACE Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center, in 2019.
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