Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County (BGCGTC) is cooking up something special with the official launch of its Blue Door Kitchen, an innovative initiative designed to improve Club members’ meal experiences, enhance BGCGTC’s workforce development efforts, and support the nonprofit’s overall mission through cost-savings and social enterprise.
The $2 million project, funded by BGCGTC and private donations, involved remodeling an existing space into a state-of-the-art production kitchen that will produce healthy meals and snacks for 3,500 members each day. The Blue Door Kitchen initiative also serves as a training ground for Club members interested in a career in culinary arts and will eventually offer nutritious, low-cost meals for Club members’ families and the surrounding community.
Daphne Barlow Stigliano, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County CEO and president, said the idea to create a modern commercial kitchen emerged from the challenges in helping kids succeed during the pandemic. BGCGTC is able to enhance the quality of the food it currently serves children through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding and provide healthier meals at significantly lower cost.
“Creating happy, healthy kids really starts with happy, full tummies,” Stigliano added. “Blue Door Kitchen allows us to deliver quality meals and snacks to the young people we serve every day. And because we can now do that very affordably, we will reinvest those savings to support the mission of our organization — which is to provide a positive environment, supportive relationships, and opportunities to nurture academic success, character, and leadership.”
Renovation efforts began earlier this year and were funded in part by Jackson-Shaw, a national real estate development company headquartered in North Texas, with support from the Amon G. Carter Foundation and private donations. The Ladies Auxiliary of Arlington also contributed a commercial truck to transport meals to BGCGTC’s Arlington locations. In all, three delivery vehicles will be used to carry meals and snacks to 25 BGCGTC facilities each day.
“We are thrilled to see this dream become a reality for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County,” said Michelle Wheeler, Jackson-Shaw president and CEO. “Our team is passionate about helping young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their potential. This investment also allows us to support the development of a pipeline of future talent in the hospitality industry that we serve.”
The kitchen also supports one of BGCGTC’s newest workforce development programs — Culinary Connection, which introduces youth age 13 and older to various cooking techniques and provides students the knowledge and skills needed to work in a professional kitchen. Participants work under the tutelage of executive chef Chris Hallowell, who leads seasonal menu creation with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and scratch-cooking principles.
Blue Door Kitchen also equips BGCGTC with space to fulfill community food needs as they arise. Barlow says the organization plans to offer carry-out meal opportunities by fall 2023.
“To our knowledge, this type of venture has never been attempted by a Boys & Girls Club,” Barlow said. “I’m proud to say that our organization is capable of handling the complexity of managing the facilities and the volume of meals that this will entail. The young people and families we serve will benefit from this exciting venture for years to come.”