BENTONVILLE, Ark. – A local college culinary program is moving into Tyson Foods’ old digs. Thanks to a $15.1 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Community College is moving its Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program into a 27,500-sq.-ft. building formerly operated as a Tyson Foods poultry-processing plant that was shuttered by the company in 2005. It should be open in time for the fall 2016 semester. 

The Walton Family Foundation is financing the move through three grants: two grants worth $6.7 million to the college to develop and outfit the program and one worth $8.4 million to the Community Development Corp. of Bentonville/Bella Vista that will redevelop the former processing plant, according to a report in the
Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

The building, constructed in the 1960s and purchased by Tyson in 1972, is in Bentonville's Market District, an area focusing on food and culinary experiences. The culinary school will fill about one-third of the building. The property is owned by Food Hub NWA, a company affiliated with the Walton family.

“We want to start focusing on the larger food world, jobs outside the kitchen,” Glenn Mack, executive director of culinary arts at the college, told theGazette. “We'll help people break into the industry beyond the restaurant scene.”

Mack, who began his job in June, is the school's first culinary arts director. He said the program will continue to train the next generation of chefs but also will focus on the larger food system such as where food is grown, artisanal food and butchery.

The culinary program, which has about 125 students, is expected to grow to about 300 students in the next few years.