From left, Luz Villar, Brenda Sanders and Kyle Harvey of Pep Foods Inc. in front of the vegan kitchen they're building on West Pratt Street.
From left, Luz Villar, Brenda Sanders and Kyle Harvey of Pep Foods Inc. in front of the vegan kitchen they're building on West Pratt Street. (Sarah Meehan / Baltimore Sun)

A local collective of vegan businesses is working to build a small commercial kitchen to support their production and help get their products into the surrounding the community.

The group, PEP Foods Inc., is raising funds to open an all-vegan kitchen in West Baltimore. The collective has been working to renovate a former Chinese carry-out at 2028 W. Pratt St. since taking over the lease in April.

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The space, about 1,000 square feet, will ultimately house at least four of the businesses in PEP Foods. The space will serve as a home base for their production as the group works to bring vegan eats to the surrounding community.

"Our goal is to get healthier foods into the convenience stores, into the carry-outs and the corner stores," said Brenda Sanders, a food justice activist and PEP's sales coordinator.

The organization will also rent out extra kitchen space to other vegan food makers for $20 per hour.

Since PEP Foods began working on the kitchen in April, they've replaced the water heater, updated the plumbing and electrical systems, and replaced some of the flooring and drywall. But the space still needs more work.

"A lot of our work has stalled because our funding dried up," said Kyle Harvey, who manages logistics for PEP Foods.

The group is working to raise $10,000 to finish the project. They still need to update the fire suppression system, patch the floors and make some cosmetic upgrades.

Members are hoping much of that funding will come from a vegan mac 'n' cheese cook-off they're hosting Saturday. The event will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Urban Business Center, located at 1200 W. Baltimore St. Walk-up tickets for the event are $15.

PEP Foods' space is one of a number of shared commercial kitchens under construction in Baltimore, including projects like B-more Kitchen and the Food Hub. PEP Foods' kitchen is the only all-vegan space in development in the city.

"People in the neighborhood were very excited," Sanders said.

PEP Foods already conducts outreach through cooking demonstrations and community gardens to introduce vegan foods to low-income neighborhoods.

The businesses within the collective also offer their products at lower prices to keep them affordable to residents.

"We create a demand within those communities and then work to meet that demand," Sanders said. "Just making a product available isn't enough."

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