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Case Study: Forage Oakland

Bryan Le Febvre


Access to healthy and affordable produce is an issue shared by many people around the poverty line in Flagstaff, Arizona. These community members lack a steady source of healthy produce in their lives and can not afford the grocery stores where this food is abundant. This results in 15.8 percent of Arizonans being food insecure (“Flagstaff Foodlink”). Flagstaff Foodlink seeks to address this issue by increasing public access to local and healthy produce through an interactive fruit tree map. This semester students from the CUPI program at NAU are teaming up with Flagstaff Foodlink to address the problem of community members not having access to fresh, nutritional produce. It is crucial that the Flagstaff community find a solution to getting community members the food they need. All around Flagstaff, there are fruit trees on public land that produce an abundance of free fruit. This fruit is not harvested in large quantities and instead falls to the ground as food waste. This fruit could instead be used to meet the produce needs of low-income people.

Connecting people with this free food is what organizations like Flagstaff Foodlink and Forage Kitchen in Oakland seek to do. Before my initial research into Forage Kitchen, I knew a great deal of fruit, nuts, and other produce that fall onto the ground across hundreds of US cities and turns into food waste. In addition, I knew there were programs being started in urban environments called urban gardening that took public land and turned it into gardens. Not only did they make gardens, but they are also involved in educating people in metropolitan areas about how to grow their own food. These programs are great ways to start addressing the problem of allowing community members to have greater food security, but Forage Oakland takes it a step further. They connect gleaned produce, commercial space, and chefs all together to ensure that this gleaned produce can be turned into a marketable product. An examination of the way they connect gleaned produce, a commercial kitchen, and knowledgeable chefs with community members can help Flagstaff Foodlink produce a successful gleaning program that addresses Flagstaff’s resident’s local food economy needs.


The mission of Forage Kitchen is to support local food economies. They provide communal kitchen space, small business support, educational programs, and promote community cohesion. The main constraints the organization had were financial and organizational. The financial constraints consisted of finding the funds to pay for a large enough commercial space to house their community kitchen and paying for the expensive food equipment. The owners had to find a space that was large enough to house their bulky restaurant equipment as well as provide a space for a cafe. Finding a building with a floor plan that met their needs was a large constraint in their startup phase. In addition to housing, another financial constraint they had was coming up with funds to pay for the expensive kitchen equipment they needed. One of the main parts of their mission is to help reduce the financial load of people looking to start small kitchens. The best way to lighten this load is to buy the kitchen equipment and let the community “rent” it. In order to do this, they had to buy all the equipment which required them to come up with thousands of dollars. Similar to the constraint of funds for the building, they had to come up with the funds to purchase all the equipment the needed which took a significant amount of time. Besides the financial constraints they faced, they also faced organizational constraints. Their idea was to bring together the community together in their kitchen in order to support local food economies. This required them to organize events like Batchmade Market, private events, small business support meetings, as well as the everyday flow of interested chefs coming into their kitchen. With the hundreds of people, they were trying to bring together, they were severely limited by the manpower they had during their start-up to try and organize all these events. Despite these constraints, Forage Kitchen has become a well-run business who continues to make progress on its goal of bringing their community together with local food systems in order to strengthen the bond between the two.

The intended audience of Forage Kitchen is mainly the Oakland community of people trying to start local restaurants. This is the group they have the biggest impact on, but through their success on social media and their website, they are able to reach people across the United States. They hope not only to help the Oakland community strengthen their local food system but communities across the US. They offer their organization as an example of how to provide a community with a communal kitchen space so that local produce whether is be gleaned or grown locally, can be turned into a marketable product.

Forage Kitchen uses a plethora of methods to accomplish its mission from social media profiles to hosting small business workshops. Forage Kitchen has an extensive website that people can use to see what the kitchen space looks like, reserve kitchen time, and get an initial feel to what the organization stands for. In addition to the website, they have social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that post any events they are hosting at the kitchen and allow people to post reviews of the organization. The last digital method they employ is a newsletter that anyone can subscribe to that will notify you of coming workshops and events they hold. In addition to their online methods, they also use workshops and networking to help people of all backgrounds achieve their dream of starting up small restaurants. Their networking consists of bringing people together into their kitchen space with various backgrounds and having them cook together. They encourage their members to share cooking knowledge and techniques with others to strengthen social bonds between people and make their kitchen space feel as all-inclusive as possible. To lighten the load of starting up a small business on first timers, Forage Kitchen provides workshops at their kitchen to teach people the ins and outs of the business side of starting their own company with their “small co-packing program”. They will walk you through the process of raising funds through a platform called Kickstarter. The last and most well-known method they employ is their Batchmade market. This an event they host every first Friday where they allow the public to come and check out all the food that is being made at Forage Kitchen. This event is basically a giant tasting market where chefs can showcase their food, gain support, and start to sell their products. Forage Kitchen has made it a point to use as many platforms and methods as they can so they can share their mission with as many people as possible.

The intended outcome that Forage Kitchen hopes to have is to support and expand Oakland’s local food system. They hope that at the end of the day they can take local produce, people, and provide a strong connection between the two. They aim to have their kitchen and programs allow people to take local produce and turn it into successful products. Not only do they care about the local food system, but they make it a big part of their organization to make their kitchen a socially safe, communal space. Both of the owners had negative experiences in modern kitchens so in theirs they try and limit the negativity that exists in a lot of commercial kitchens and make the space as inclusive and friendly as possible. Overall Forage Kitchen wants their organization to strengthen the local food system and the friendship bonds of people in the community.


My examination of Forage Kitchen has added many things to my understanding of gleaning initiatives that can help Flagstaff Foodlink. The main lessons I learned through my examination of Forage Kitchen were how to raise funds through Kickstarter, how important social media is in spreading the word of your organization, and how effective communal resources can be. Through reading one of the founder’s blog postings on how they used Kickstarter I learned a lot about how to start raising funds in an effective way. The main lesson I learned from this was to think of Kickstarter as a promotional tool rather than a fundraising tool. This might seem counter-intuitive, but in order to start a business, you need to promote yourself and Kickstarter can help with that. It points people in the direction of your business and shows them what your mission is. If they like your organization, they donate, if not then you just informed one more person about your organization and started building your network of people that know about you. I also learned to combine social media and Kickstarter to reach out to people in a more effective way. Just using Kickstarter won’t reach enough people because there is a very limited amount of people that use it compared to social media. Use social media to create a contact list of people and then send them messages that point them in the way of your Kickstarter page. This will help you reach more people and get the funds you need to make your business a reality. Lastly, Forage Kitchen showed me how powerful a communal space can be when it comes to gleaning initiatives. Forage Kitchen provides the space and very expensive kitchen equipment people need to turn their gleaned and local produce into a product. By doing this, they take the brunt of expensive start-up costs for people and allow them to make their products stress free. Having communal resources allows communities to take advantage of their local food systems and get over the barrier that is expensive start-up costs. These are the lessons I learned from Forage Kitchen that I believe could be applied to Flagstaff Foodlink to help their gleaning initiative more successful.  

The two main themes I saw that Forage Kitchen and Flagstaff Foodlink share were supporting local food systems and promoting more close-knit community relationships. Forage Kitchen makes it a point to use locally grown produce in their kitchen as well as gleaned produce. Flagstaff Foodlink promotes the use of local produce and is now starting up their gleaning program. Forage Kitchen strongly believes in promoting healthy relationships between people in the community and offers their kitchen as space where these relationships can be strengthened. Through our interview with Molly, a Flagstaff Foodlink representative, I saw that Flagstaff Foodlink also wants to promote strong community relations. They use programs like their Tour De Coup that allow people to open up their homes and teach people about raising chickens at home. Both organizations share the themes of supporting local food systems and improving inter-community relationships.

The main differences I saw between the two organizations were communal resources and the stages of the local food systems where each organization operates. The biggest difference between the Flagstaff Foodlink and Forage Kitchen was that Forage Kitchen has a successful communal resource: their commercial kitchen. Flagstaff Foodlink does not have many tangible communal resources. The main communal resources they have are knowledge and the workshops they do through their Tour De Coup and Garden Ninja Tour. These offer community members the initial education about home gardening but does not have them doing the physical, tangible work. Forage Kitchen’s commercial kitchen allows people to receive the knowledge they need about local produce and take that produce and turn it into a product. The next difference I saw were the levels in the local food system where each organization operates. Flagstaff Foodlink operates more in the initial and educational levels of the local food system. They offer the education that people need to get started in supporting the local food system and point people in the direction of local growers and sellers. Whereas Forage Kitchen operates on the business level of local food systems. They provide people with the information and tools they need to start up a business. Many of these people already have the knowledge that organizations like Flagstaff Foodlink would offer them. Although these organizations have varying methods, they still hope to achieve the same goal: supporting local food systems.

The two main things I believe we could apply to Flagstaff Foodlink are communal resources and Kickstarter fundraising. Flagstaff Foodlink does not have to go out and buy a commercial kitchen, but I think having community resources to help with gleaning would be a great addition to their program. They could offer a toolshed of tools people can rent that so they can either glean or start a home garden. In addition, Flagstaff Foodlink could offer a contact list of people who have tools or knowledge on how to glean or start local gardens so that people can start to make more tangible products of the local food system. Offering tools and knowledge could then expand the local food system to more people and help start up more local food system oriented businesses. From our interview with Molly, it sounds like Flagstaff Foodlink could use more funds to make programs like a communal toolshed more plausible. Forage Kitchen’s use of Kickstarter to raise more funds seems like a good way to address this need. Flagstaff Foodlink could use a similar process to raise more funds and expand their programs. If these two ideas are applied to Flagstaff Foodlink, I believe that they can have more success in achieving their mission.


Forage Kitchen is an organization in Oakland, California that seeks to support local food systems by providing a communal kitchen space in which the community can take local produce and turn it into marketable products. Through their extensive use of social media platforms, workshops, fundraising through Kickstarter, and communal kitchen space they have been able to have a significant impact on improving Oakland’s local food system. They seek to improve Oakland’s food system as well as act as a model for other organizations that want to make an impact on their local food systems. Through my examination of Forage Kitchen, I learned some methods that Flagstaff Foodlink could adopt that would help improve their gleaning initiative. The methods that Flagstaff Foodlink could adopt include Kickstarter fundraising and offering a communal toolshed and contact list. Kickstarter, when coupled with extensive social media use, can help Foodlink increase its fundraising efforts. Having a communal tool shed will help people start their own gardens and not let money be a barrier to their participation in the local food system. In addition to the toolshed, offering a contact list of people who have tools or the craftsmen knowledge on how to start a home garden would greatly help people participate and contribute to the local food system. Forage Kitchen is a great local food organization with many great methods and ideas on improving local food systems. If Flagstaff Foodlink can adopt of few of their ideas, then their impact on Flagstaff’s local food system can greatly be improved.

ReferencesFlagstaff Foodlink. Access. Retrieved from


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