Tamale Kitchen is changing lives one tamale at a time

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One metro kitchen isn't just a place to cook; it's a movement.

The goal: end the cycle of poverty among people struggling to get ahead. FOX 4's Abby Eden takes us to Tamale Kitchen in Kansas City's Old Northeast.

The secret to Velia Gonzalez's tamales is a long-time family recipe

"The recipe was passed on from generation to generation to generation," she said (translated).

Once a week, for 8 hours, a small group of women come together to make tamales to sell, and their recipe is so successful, it's become a recipe for a true life change.

"I pay livable wages. In this case, $12.50 an hour," said Becky Gripp.

A priest in the old northeast neighborhood wanted a way to help members make a good wage, they work hard, but few wanted to give them a chance at a good, well-paid job. Becky Gripp was willing to help.

"Rather than profit-based, it's impact-based," she explained.

Gripp met with the women who were interested in making money to help their families. They were surprised people in Kansas City wanted to buy homemade tamales.

"Because it's so much a part of what they do in their culture, they did not see it as something marketable, something wanted to have on a year-round basis, when it's something associated with holidays," Gripp said.

The tamales were a hit. They sell dozens every week. Soon they're moving into a new permanent space.

"I'm very happy, that was the main objective," Gonzalez said.

The new kitchen means room to grow, as Gripp and her team want to expand to 25 women.

"We're going to raise up this entire community, this particular pocket of poverty, we're going to make a difference."

Recently they teamed up with Blue Valley schools to learn computer skills, and teach the students Spanish.

The tamale kitchen isn't really a kitchen at all.

"It's an opportunity to grow," Gonzalez said.

"The Tamale Kitchen is not a physical space, it's a philosophy," Gripp explained.

That philosophy is that anyone deserves a chance to excel at their work and make a living doing it, creating a more prosperous community overall.

"It's a business for the better good," Gripp said.

The next generation of women in the Tamale Kitchen want to send tamales to mexico fortified with nutrients to help people in poverty down there.