FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A fully licensed commercial kitchen was recently built at the Northeast Aboriginal Business Centre (NEABC) to give local food makers and producers a space to learn and get their products out into the community.

Paulette Flamond, with NEABC, has been working hard over the last five years to make the kitchen a reality, even when the resources, such as funding, weren’t available.

“Basically, the idea was to provide a space for knowledge sharing, for food sharing and business building,” said Flamond.

The new kitchen is a part of Flamond’s “baby”, the Indigenous Food Collective, running through the centre.

She says the purpose of the collective aligns with why the centre was created almost 20 years ago — to provide a space for Indigenous entrepreneurs to start or expand their businesses and also to provide coaching and training.

Like the centre’s programming, the collective will be open to all business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the region, offering various supports, such as workshops and courses.

“We’re really opening up on reconciliation and being able to work with each other because it really takes [everyone] to build something within the community.”

The kitchen was an idea that came to Flamond after speaking with food producers, who were using their own kitchens to create items, including salsas and jams. This limited them from having their products on the shelves of local grocery stores and certain markets.

Now, they can utilize the centre’s newly-built kitchen that is also fully licensed after a health inspector completed their final review on Monday.

“I was on cloud nine Monday,” Flamond adds.

Flamond is also in discussions with local not-for-profits to team up for community programming, such as “cooking on a budget.”

“I said to the [Women’s Resource Centre] executive director, bring me these three products, whether it be rice beans,  maybe add a vegetable, bring in a group of people,  and show them how to make delicious food with three ingredients using the right spices, the right oils, all of that.”

Flamond says while government funding is important for non-profits, so is having their own sources of revenue.

“This commercial kitchen has so many amazing opportunities for a non-profit organization.”

The cost of the new kitchen was approximately $150,000, with the funding coming from multiple businesses, including Atco Frontec, NorthRiver Midstream, Shell Canada, Pembina Pipeline,  TransCanada Energy, and Todd Energy.

Flamond is also putting the call out to other businesses to help fund around $3,000 worth of kitchen utensils that are needed. Anyone willing to donate can reach out to the NEABC at 250-785-1870.

The NEABC is located at 10055 100th Avenue in Fort St. John.

Tre Lopushinsky is the News Director at Energeticcity.ca, and a NAIT broadcasting graduate. His love for local journalism started in Lloydminster, where he realized the importance of covering issues/topics for smaller municipalities. He is also the co-host of Before The Peace, highlighting Indigenous voices in the North Peace. In his off time, Tre is yelling at his tv while watching pro wrestling, MMA, and basketball.