Something’s cooking. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Tarrant County (BGCGTC) cut the ribbon yesterday on its Blue Door Kitchen initiative to provide healthy meals and culinary training for youth throughout the area.
Started in 1926, the BGCGTC is the oldest and largest club in Texas, serving 31,000+ young people annually throughout Tarrant and Denton counties. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a need and prompted the idea for the Blue Door Kitchen two years ago.
The initiative is the latest in the BCCGTC’s efforts to combat hunger and the food insecurity in Texas that affects one in six kids.
A $2 million renovation project added an 1,100-sqft cutting-edge production kitchen to the BGCGTC Nicholas and Louella Martin Branch (3123 Avenue G.).
This kitchen will distribute hot plates to 25 BGCGTC facilities through a box truck system, serving healthy meals and snacks to 3,500 youth members every day starting this fall.
“Creating happy, healthy kids really starts with happy, full tummies,” said BGCGTC President Daphne Barlow Stigliano, explaining that the Blue Door Kitchen will allow the organization to recoup some food service expenses and reinvest the money in the Club’s mission “to provide a positive environment, supportive relationships, and opportunities to nurture academic success, character, and leadership.”
The new kitchen is designed for quality production of high-volume meals and zero waste. It includes:
- LAN connected equipment
- A Robot Coupe that can slice and dice 550 lbs of produce per hour
- An oven that increases efficiency and decreases water use and cooking time
- A pressure cooker that cooks four times faster with 40% less energy
- A blast chiller that increases food shelf life and makes the kitchen more flexible
The kicker: All of the food is made fresh and served warm — like the kitchen’s first meal of barbecue chicken, green beans, and mac and cheese — compared to processed, prepackaged food that was previously supplied.
The project was funded in part by North Texas real estate company Jackson-Shaw, the Amon G. Carter Foundation, and the Ladies Auxiliary of Arlington. At the ribbon cutting, Atmos Energy also donated $10,000 for a kids culinary program. Food service distribution is funded through the US Dept. of Agriculture.
Junior culinary training
The first-of-its-kind program provides culinary training for aspiring chefs through Culinary Connection. As a workforce development program, it introduces teens to various cooking techniques and teaches them skills so they can go on to pursue careers in professional kitchens.
High school students learn how to make fresh seasonal meals from scratch with locally sourced ingredients under the supervision of executive chef Chris Hallowell.
Just the beginning
Soon, the program hopes to expand meal service to club members’ families and other community members. It also aims to offer carry-out meals through its social enterprise initiatives, aiming to reach all 37 BGCGTC locations in the next few years.