My timing was good. The day I visited the Community Kitchen at Saanich Neighbourhood Place, there were oodles of cookies, strudels, zucchinni/spinach quiche and soup being prepared. All of which I like very much. I was there to learn about community kitchens.
There are 3 community kitchens currently based out of Saanich Neighbourhood Place (SNP), part of the Pearkes Community/Recreation Centre in Victoria. Each kitchen has a core group of people who meet bi-weekly to plan, prepare, and cook food. The food is prepared in large quantities, and the cooked food shared among the group participants, for consumption back at their homes. SNP provides the kitchen space, the pots and pans, and some of the bulk produce e.g., sugar, flour. SNP also provides adjacent rooms for child minding, and an outdoor play facility. The day I attended all of the participants were mothers, and all with small children in tow, or arms! (see my photos to get the picture).
Thanks to Theresa Bennett, current program facilitator/coordinator at SNP, and to all the cooks/participants: Miriana, Blanca, Hiroko, Mindy, Suzanne, Karla, and Priscila, for generously sharing their space, time, and attention with me, and providing me with cooking samples (awesome tasting!).
Having seen the SNP Community Kitchen in action, I think community kitchens are an attractive framework for collaboration, and bridging communities. Here’s why:
It’s good for participants
1. Working together; meal planning, preparation
2. Atmosphere; welcoming, open, conversational, much warmth/humour
3. Companionship; conversation, information exchange, friendship
4. Membership; inclusive; mix of ages, incomes, backgrounds (gender mix happens, though not the usual)
5. Family-friendly; young parents, newborns (approximately a dozen kids/tots came along with their moms to the session I attended)
6. Family members at-home benefit; from inspired/creative cooking, variety (national and regional cuisines)
7. Learning; sharing/learning other cultures, recipes (this group included Japanese, great ideas for cooking meat & fish together & Mexican, great with soup broths, mole)
8. Mentorship; older/younger, experienced/inexperienced
9. Skills development; nutrition, cooking, food management, teamwork
10. Lifestyle; healthy food, parenting support
11. Flexible structure; group keeps going till interest dissipates, substitutes fill in when participant unable to attend
12. Access to low-cost, quality food; from time-to-time, SNP acts as a distribution centre for produce from local food producers
13. Community supported; meeting place, some equipment & supplies, financial
14. Access to complementary services; to other parenting/family programs in SNP, and to other services/programs operating out of the Pearkes community complex; e.g., recreation, library
It’s good for the community…
15. Community partnerships; some of food used in the kitchen is donated – e.g., via Lifecycles community Fruit Tree Project, some is purchased from local food producers
16. Environmentally-friendly model; reducing food waste coordinating food intake & distribution so no family needs food shortage
17. Community education; Connecting with other food security networks and programs; e.g., BC Food Systems Network, CR-FAIR
For more on community kitchens, try here.
The SNP Community Kitchen is funded/subsidized by local public agencies. The subsidies cover equipment, some supplies, and staff time (e.g., coordinator, child minding). SNP is exploring new ways to fund/sustain their community kitchens; e.g., through private sector sponsorship.
SNP is one model of community kitchen. What’s yours?