by Malia Durbano

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    Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Karakin Foundation, Manna Soup Kitchen in Durango will construct a new 3,170-square-foot building to house administrative offices, a teaching kitchen, and conference rooms.

“We are conducting a needs assessment to determine if the operation can become self-sustaining in a few years,” Larry Turner, board member and Chairman of the Building Committee, said. “We will decide if using the kitchen to produce products such as soups and deli items for local grocery stores will be a good way to utilize the facility to generate income.”

At the new teaching kitchen, workers will learn knife skills, how to prepare sauces and soups, how to read recipes and measurements, cuts of meat, food combining and professional behavior. “With the high concentration of restaurants here, a large percentage of the classified ads are for restaurant work,” says Turner. “Our new program will offer training and experience to a population otherwise not served.”

Workers at the facility served almost 61,000 meals in 2012, and prepared an additional 4,500 weekend lunches for students on the free or reduced-price school lunch program. Food donations from all the local grocery stores, including City Market, Albertsons, Vitamin Cottage / Natural Grocers and Nature’s Oasis and many local farmers totaled 131,399 pounds in 2012, with approximately 70% to 80% of it organic produce. Whatever the soup kitchen can’t use is donated to other organizations such as the Safe House, Homeless Shelter and smaller food banks from Pagosa Springs to Silverton.

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   In a dining room adjacent to the culinary teaching kitchen, people will learn serving skills. The conference rooms will be rented to other agencies that serve the same population.

“By making people more employable, we help them get back in the work force and provide restaurants with trained, experienced employees,” Turner said. `