Human Services

Creating A Better Quality of Life Throughout The Region

Manchester Bidwell:

Upgrading to Enrich the Culinary Arts and Horticulture Programs

Manchester Bidwell:

Upgrading to Enrich the Culinary Arts and Horticulture Programs

In 1968, Bill Strickland launched the Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) on Pittsburgh’s northside, providing adult career training and youth arts to address the economic declines affecting his neighborhood. MBC has two primary operating affiliates, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center (BTC), both of which operate under three key principles: people thrive when treated as assets, environment shapes behavior, and creativity fuels innovation. Bill stepped down as CEO last year, turning over the leadership to Kevin Jenkins, a seasoned nonprofit leader. To mark this leadership transition, MBC has embarked on a $50 million capital campaign—$35 million for the Pittsburgh-based program and $15 million for the replication efforts. A $5 million Foundation grant will support critical upgrades in the culinary arts and horticulture programs, which are essential for BTC to remain on the cutting edge of service delivery and expand enrollment as the organization moves forward. In addition, the upgrades will promote synergies between the two programs, with culinary degree students meeting science requirements by working in the greenhouse and horticulture students growing herbs and vegetables for use in the kitchen.

The culinary arts program operates in the main MBC building, which was constructed in 1986. Forty students enroll in the 50-week program each year, and there is always a waiting list. The space configuration prevents BTC from enrolling additional students because walls divide rooms and instruction table space is limited. Furthermore, BTC has been unable to offer one-time classes or develop a line of retail products such as meal kits or bakery items to capitalize on the popularity of cooking shows. The kitchen renovations will create space that can accommodate flexible programming, including an associate’s degree track. All of the renovations will receive input from the advisory committee, whose members include representatives from Nestle, Allegheny County Health Department, Rivers Casino, Breadworks, The Renaissance Pittsburgh, and the Duquesne Club. Two of these organizations provided letters of support for this project, stressing the food industry’s need for qualified workers and the quality of BTC’s training.

MBC’s Drew Mathieson Center (DMC) was constructed in 2003 as a social enterprise and a horticulture training facility. Most of the systems installed at that time have reached the end of their useful life, and technology has progressed, providing opportunities for innovations in energy use, conservation, environmental impact, and plant and crop quality. In addition, the facility was built for wholesale floriculture production, and the renovations will allow BTC to accommodate commercial food production as well.

Innovative production technologies around vertical farming, aquaponics, and aeroponics will ensure the DMC greenhouse and the students studying there remain up-to-date in the horticulture and agriculture industries. The new facility also will be a center for beta testing crops for corporate partners and offering adult workshops to small farmers and other members of the community. BTC also has connected with Carnegie Mellon University’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute about opportunities for the greenhouse to incubate technological systems to improve food safety and quality; promote operational efficiency; and expand urban agriculture technology applications, perhaps leading it to become a research and development center for the University.