May 3—WINDHAM — In its mission to support a healthy local food network, nonprofit CLiCK is simultaneously working to help the low-income and minority communities of Windham and Willimantic.
CLiCK stands for Commercially Licensed Cooperative Kitchen. It was initially founded in 2012 with the purpose to allow local farmers and business owners to process their foods in a shared commercial kitchen space, which officially opened for business in 2015.
But CLiCK is now much more than its commercial kitchen, according to the organization's executive director, Leigh Duffy.
It's a source of community outreach and serves as a support system and educational facility for community members and small business owners to take advantage of.
" We are a nonprofit and people forget that," Duffy said. "We are a nonprofit that is supporting a healthy local food network, that's really our mission, our vision."
One way CLiCK is fulfilling its mission is by promoting food micro- businesses and helping them get started and guiding them on how to expand.
Currently, CLiCK is focused on helping low- income, underemployed and unemployed populations in the area by offering grant- funded, start-up scholarships.
" That is one of the ways we're trying to make the food- service industry more egalitarian and more open and available to everybody," Duffy said.
" We've gotten several grants to help us to be able to offer food start-up scholarships to people."
Earlier this year, CLiCK was awarded a $34,000 grant from a U. S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grant program to support Latinx food businesses.
Through this grant, 10 local, low- income Latinx entrepreneurs will receive Bridge to Rural Success micro-business scholarships.
The money helps cover initial startup costs, which many cannot afford on their own, Duffy explained.
" A lot of the barriers are they just don't have the money to go through the process or, if they happen to be Spanish- speaking, it's confusing and not all the information is in their language," she said.
CLiCK has its own outreach and engagement staff member who works closely with the health department to help identify individuals who are cooking and selling food from home, according to Duffy.
" We want to help them to expand and grow and become a licensed food business that has all of the food safety components to it," she said.
This year alone, CLiCK was able to provide, through grant funding, about 60 ServSafe food safety certifications to business owners who could not afford to get it themselves, Duffy said.
" The thing that is so critically important that new business owners don't always get is that support to go from, 'I have a food idea,' to obtaining the actual licensing, business plan, food assessment, all of that; we help people get through it. It's not easy, it can be very confusing," she said.
Additionally, CLiCK's online and in-person educational programs are available to all interested individuals.
The teaching kitchen's programs revolve around gardening, cooking, food safety and more.
Programs can be found online at clickwillimantic. com/ teaching- kitchen.
Volunteers are also needed at CLiCK for the spring and summer seasons.
Whether volunteers have one hour available a week or 10, help is always needed, according to Duffy.
Individuals interested in volunteering may email Leigh Duffy at clickwillimantic@ gmail. com.
Follow Lisa Massicotte on Twitter — @LMassicotteTC.
Address: 41 Club Road, Windham