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Carver Food Enterprise Center receives $470K grant for commercial kitchen
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Carver Food Enterprise Center receives $470K grant for commercial kitchen

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An agriculture and food fare-focused initiative taking root for the past several years in Culpeper County just got a sizeable investment.

The Carver Food Incubator and Community Kitchen project has received a $470,000 grant through the State Industrial Revitalization Fund announced earlier this week by Gov. Ralph Northam as part of more than $4.4 million in awards across Virginia.

The money will be used for phase one of constructing the George Washington Carver Food Enterprise Center at the historic school, according to Culpeper County Extension Agent Becky Sheffield Gartner. The 7,000-square-foot facility is slated for construction in the back portion, including the former carpentry shop, in the circa-1948 brick school.

The food center will provide a shared facility for area entrepreneurs to start and expand catering businesses while promoting sustainable agriculture and job training and forming alliances to increase access for all to nutritious food, according to a 2017 presentation from the group working toward the facility.

According to the grant award, “The former George Washington Carver Regional High School, located on Route 15 in Culpeper, was constructed in 1948 and served as the regional high school for African American students. Culpeper County is renovating the property to become a cultural, agricultural, and vocational business incubator with educational and research facilities.”

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The food enterprise center will be used as a food business incubator, providing food truck services, a point source for locally grown products, and a community education kitchen.

The project is expected to create 28 to 38 full-time positions, according to the governor’s office.

“This is about renovating old buildings, investing in neighborhoods, and launching new businesses,” said Northam said in a statement. “These projects will greatly benefit Virginia’s local economies and business owners.”

A fall 2020 update on the Carver kitchen project by the work group reported increased interest in the project due to COVID-19. Local foods, food supply and food processing are also being seen as increasingly important as well as greater awareness of food insecurity in the region.

Architectural plans and renderings have been completed for the project estimated to cost $1.4 million for general remodeling in the school, infrastructure, HVAC, asbestos removal and fire alarm system. Phase 1 is estimated at $353,000.

Culpeper County Board Chairman Gary Deal gave kudos to grants administrator Laura Loveday and the Extension Office for their diligence in procuring funds for the project.

“Great things continue to happen in Culpeper,” he said.

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