OGDEN — A project is seeking crowdfunding investors in its attempt to redesign how soup kitchens work.

O-Town Kitchen hopes to raise $8,500 through an Indiegogo campaign in order to address the growing problems of homeless families in Utah and food waste.

If successful, O-Town Kitchen organizers said they will translate the value of food waste into income for displaced families.

The program would take food donations that are about to expire from grocery stores and restaurants, and make something else out of it that would extend its shelf life.

The food would be repurposed into canned items such jams, chutney, syrups and condiments.

To do so, the program would employ homeless parents to help prepare the items and sell them at local farmers markets.

“Instead of just feeding these homeless families all of the time, we find a way so they could feed themselves, so it would be longer lasting,” said Nestor Robles, vice president of O-Town Kitchen.

According to the O-Town Kitchen organizers, the 2014 Utah Comprehensive Report on Homelessness shows that 46 percent of the homeless population in the state is families. Families make up the fastest growing segment of the homeless population here and about 77 percent of these homeless families are headed by single mothers with young children, who are leaving abusive relationships.

On the reverse side, about $161.6 billion worth of edible food goes to waste in the United States every year, the report said. About 40 percent of that waste happens in grocery stores and restaurants.

Robles said people waste a lot of food at home. The program hopes to get food from people’s gardens as well.

O-Town Kitchen founder Isaac Farley said he started thinking that if he could get the value of that food to people who are in emergency situations, it could make a big impact.

Farley said the money raised through the fundraising campaign will go to help purchase commercial canning equipment, as well as basic kitchen needs such as herbs and spices.

Among the groups the program will work with is Your Community Connection in Ogden, which signed a contract with O-Town Kitchen. The contract goes into effect May 18.

YCC officials learned about the program through a board member.

“Everyone agreed that they thought it it was a good idea,” said YCC Executive Director Julee Smith.

YCC is excited to work with the new program, Smith said, and looks forward to serving as its pilot program.

Through the program, YCC clients will work with the O-Town Kitchen.

The whole idea is to have the programs self-sustaining, Smith said.

In return, Smith said the clients will receive valuable job experience, including a food handler’s permit, knowledge on canning and sales.

These skills can translate into other employment, including jobs in restaurants.

Smith said the experience will be a self-esteem booster, letting the clients understand their self-worth.

“We just feel it’s a win-win situation all the way around,” Smith said.

Along with money for the iIdiegogo project, Smith asks the public to donate fresh produce and canning supplies.

With the public’s help, Smith believes the program will improve the lives of a lot of families.

“I see it as a positive thing,” Smith said. “These young men, I admire them. I think it’s a great idea and I hope everyone gets behind them so they can succeed.”

If the program meets its financial goals, organizers hope to start working by the beginning of summer.

To contribute to the donation drive, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/o-town-kitchen--2.

Contact Jesus Lopez Jr. at 801-625-4239 or jlopez@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @jesuslopezSE and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/JesusLopezSE.

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