Local Profile: Porchlight Products
Published on December 5th, 2017
By Jennifer Oppriecht
In this season of giving, we’d like to shed light on an organization supporting Madison’s homeless. It’s why we’re giving away a free gift basket featuring a dozen delicious food products from Porchlight Products as our Monthly Blog Bonus.
Porchlight Products helps fulfill this mission by providing jobs to its clients who prepare high-quality food products such as sauerkraut, jams, apple butter and pancake mix sold in local area grocery stores.
According to Porchlight’s Executive Director Karla Thennes, a new commercial kitchen and an Epic moment have helped the program grow substantially over the last few years — momentum she hopes will continue during the holidays with their new “pop-up” holiday store.
History: Supplying Good Jobs Boosts Self-esteem of Workers
Porchlight Products was founded in 2007. Its mission was to supply jobs to formerly homeless individuals and eventually turn a profit to reinvest in Porchlight, Inc.
Jennifer Martel, the former head pastry chef at Daisy Cafe, became the organization’s first manager. She created dozens of recipes from scratch and hired eight clients to produce an array of food items.
But it’s more than just the mission that makes Porchlight Products special. It’s the ingredients they use as well.
Porchlight Products uses primarily local ingredients whenever possible, many of which are also organic. This ensures fresh, high-quality products sold at local food stores and supports Madison’s local farmers and food suppliers.
New Developments as Porchlight Continues to Help People Get Back on Their Feet
Over the past several years, distribution in sales has grown. Porchlight Products currently employs nearly a dozen workers, comprised of formerly homeless individuals with disabilities who are trying to get back on their feet by learning important job skills.
“The organization provides jobs for people who otherwise might not have the opportunity,” said Karla Thennes, Executive Director. “Some may have mental health issues or criminal records that makes it nearly impossible to find work. Porchlight Products grants them a much-needed chance for employment and empowerment.”
Karla described a number of exciting new changes that have occurred at Porchlight Products recently:
1. Thierer Road Facility Opens With New Kitchen, 28 Efficiency Apartments
Thanks to a $4.5 million capital campaign, in which 90% of the funds came from individual donations, Porchlight built a much larger and more efficient commercial kitchen that will allow for the production of more products and the opportunity to increase employment to about 25 participants in the program.
They’ve also built efficiency apartments, with dedicated on-site case management and mental health counseling for residents. Six of the 28 units are reserved for veterans.
2. An Epic Moment Offers a Boost in Food Service Sales
Porchlight Products program participants do samplings at many local retail food stores. One day, a man tasted a cracker with Porchlight’s strawberry jam. That man was the food purchaser for Epic, and they bought out the entire inventory of strawberry jam.
This opened up a new growth avenue for Porchlight. In addition to Epic, Porchlight now sells products through the food service channel of distribution to UW Hospital, Full Compass and several of the area’s fine restaurants.
3. Pop-up Holiday Store Now Open at Thierer Road Location
With its new and expanded kitchen, Porchlight Products now has a “pop-up” holiday store. The store will be between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Stop by their location at 1704 Thierer Road, Nov. 27 – Dec. 23. The store will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Noon until 6:00pm, and all products will be available – including gift boxes too! Click Here to download a flyer featuring gift box pricing!
Where You Can Find Porchlight Products
Besides the pop-up holiday store, you can find Porchlight Products in 13 grocery stores and 15 restaurants and retail outlets.
You can now find the organization’s products in multiple retail outlets:
- Hy-Vee – West, East, and Fitchburg
- Metcalfe’s – Hilldale and West Town
- Festival Foods
- Willy St. Coop – West, North, and East
Restaurants featuring their products include:
- Short Stack Eatery
- Brasserie V
- Daisy Cafe
Please click here for a full list of grocery stores and restaurants that feature Porchlight Products’ food.
“The new grocery stores, restaurants and retail outlets give people more opportunities to purchase Porchlight Products than ever before,” said Karla. “We’re hoping to grow even more next year.”
If you’re looking for a great gift that the recipient will love and supports a great cause, consider purchasing Porchlight Products’ delicious food items. Also, don’t forget to sign up below for the Monthly Blog Bonus for your chance to win a gift basket!