by Danielle Woodward, Volunteer Writer
Meet Harvest Kitchen, Farm Fresh RI’s culinary job training program and local foods café that is transforming lives and our food system. Located in downtown Pawtucket, the front of house is a local foods café. The welcoming space serves affordable, tasty, nutritious, and locally sourced meals. The back of house is a commercial kitchen that houses Harvest Kitchen’s processing operations and job training program designed for underserved teens.
The Harvest Kitchen mission-base culinary job training program has a mission that is twofold: buy excess produce from local farmers and train and employee youth involved with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The 20-week program includes 15 weeks of culinary training plus a 5-week internship. During this time, trainees build a working knowledge of the local food system in a professional setting.
Sean Kontos, program director at Harvest Kitchen explains “It’s run like a job. Students gain working knowledge in a professional setting including punctuality, preparation for the day, and routine.” It’s a unique opportunity for job training and regular paycheck. While in the program, students learn to cook and preserve products, gain ServSafe certification, and more. They largely use local B-grade and surplus produce — produce that would otherwise be wasted — to create delicious jarred and dried products including applesauces, apple chips, stewed tomatoes, and various pickle varieties. All the produce is sourced from local and regional farms. The finished products are sold through Farm Fresh’s Market Mobile local food ordering platform for wholesale and home delivery or curbside pickup, local retailers, farmers markets, and at the Harvest Kitchen Café.
Since 2019, the talented Chef Bernard Miller has been the chef educator for Harvest Kitchen. His students in the program earn a weekly paycheck and gain employable job skills and experience in the kitchen. Over 230 students have graduated from the Harvest Kitchen culinary program, with many transitioning into careers in the food industry.
In addition to their own preserved products, Harvest Kitchen also offers co-packing and private label production for local farms. These services offer local farms the option to provide their produce to Harvest Kitchen to be transformed into value-added products using their own recipes (or HK recipes) for sale using the farm’s own label.
The front of house at Harvest Kitchen is a local foods café, which is spacious and offers delicious house-made breakfast and lunch 10am-3pm, Monday through Friday. The café is a welcome spot to meet and eat in or take out. Items on the café menu are always house-made — including freshly baked bread and baked goods — are everything is made with fresh ingredients, inspired by and sourced from local farms. There is a dish for every palate including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. In addition to menu items, the high-quality preserved products made by Harvest Kitchen students are also available for purchase at the cafe.
Harvest Kitchen also has catering available for events and meetings. It’s a special way to host an event
and support the mission of Harvest Kitchen. Along with catering, the cafe space can be rented for events and gatherings, or catering can be ordered for pickup to use at offsite parties or meetings.
You can visit Harvest Kitchen in the historic Gately building (beautifully renovated by Pawtucket Central Falls Development), located at 2 Bayley Street in downtown Pawtucket. The cafe is on the corner of Main Street and Bayley Street, with a large parking lot off Main Street for convenient access.
Check out the seasonal cafe menu: farmfreshri.org/cafe
Find Harvest Kitchen products at various famers markets in Rhode Island including:
- Farm Fresh Providence Farmers Market (Saturdays 9am-1pm, year-round)
- Farm Fresh Armory Park Farmers Markets (Thursdays 3-7pm, June through October)
- Hope Street Farmers Market (Saturdays 9am-1pm, May through October)
- Weaver Library Farmers Market (Thursdays, 4-7pm, June through September)
Supporting Harvest Kitchen is a delicious way to help underserved teens achieve their goals of employment while also strengthening the local food system!
Thank you to our volunteer photographer Jessica Watson for these lovely photos.