Co-op Sauce

Awesome Food is excited to announce that its tenth micro-grant of $1,000 has been awarded to Mike Bancroft of Co-op Image, a youth arts education and entrepreneurship organization based in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.  Awesome Food is a chapter of the Awesome Foundation, a global network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe.

In operation since 2003, Co-op Image runs a variety of youth-led programs in the fields of fine art and sustainable food making. One of these programs, called Chi-Town Chefs,  connects urban agriculture, the politics of healthy eating, and culinary-arts training through a weekly cooking show. Youth apprentices ages 14-15 cultivate herbs and vegetables in Co-op Image’s community gardens then use them in the production of their cooking show set for broadcast on public access television. The cooking show teaches industry-standard video production techniques to youth and serves the community with culturally relevant information about food preparation, nutrition, and sustainable urban agriculture. You can watch the pilot episode of Chi-Town Chefs here.

The newly acquired Co-op Image storefront where the pop-up BBQ cafe will take place

Rolando Robledo, an Awesome Food trustee and head chef at Clover Food Lab based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was particularly excited about this month’s grant to Co-op Image.  He praised their special programs where student participants can “gain insights into leadership and how to run a business, from a place where they feel they can contribute their ideas and be considered.”  He added, “the cool part is that we’ve got inner-city kids, learning valuable skills, planning, organizing. All of this, while having fun.”

Co-op Image also produces Co-op Sauce, a highly successful hot sauce company, which has been featured in Tasting Table, Time Out Chicago and The Huffington Post.  Co-op Sauce is sold at various retailers throughout the Chicago area, as well as online.  Half of the proceeds from the sales of Co-op Sauce go directly towards supporting programs at Co-op Image.

Student-built BBQ trailer

In the summer of 2011, students at Co-op Image built a BBQ trailer (welding and all!) and hosted a pop-up dinner event in the Co-op Image community garden.  With help from the Awesome Food grant, they are trying their hand at a BBQ pop-up cafe which will be run out of the Co-op Sauce production facility. “This project will be a great experiment in social entrepreneurship and has the capacity to keep on going with minimal investment,” Bancroft shared.  He added, “our youth need these real incubator opportunities, and the experience would be an amazing life lesson around the business of food.” Bancroft is also exploring the possibility of establishing a more permanent cafe that would create much needed jobs for at-risk teens.  The Awesome Food grant will go towards displays and youth stipends for the BBQ pop-up cafe.

For more information onCo-op Image, check our their website or email mike@coopimage.org.

Photos courtesy of Mike Bancroft.