Kitchen brings community together
The menu includes apple stuffed pork with rhubarb sauce, turkey pot pie, black bean and corn salad, asparagus frittata and tabbouleh.
The lucky participants at Community Kitchens don’t have to choose. They’re working together to make everything and they’ll take home portions to freeze for about $1 per serving.
For 20 years, Community Kitchens has been cooking up good food at low cost for anyone who wants to learn how to cook and eat healthy meals. Participants in the Vernon area include young people, young parents, seniors, people with disabilities and anyone who wants better food at better cost.
“This is something people can really take home and use. Some people come for a short time and others come for a long time. One woman has been coming for 12 years,” said Linda Yule, executive director of the United Way of North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap, which has provided 25 per cent of the funding for Community Kitchens around the North Okanagan for the past 10 years.
She’s concerned that the Interior Health funding (75 per cent) will stop next year.
“There are no community kitchens in other health regions so it didn’t fit their mandate. But good nutrition is an important part of good health,” she said.
Josh Godfrey likes the opportunity to learn to cook for himself.
“I started to go to the Farmers Market to get local food and I have my own garden. I want to make my own food and help out at home. I like to try new things,” he said.
Nora Aten came to a Community Kitchens sessions a couple of years ago so she could report back to the Old Age Pensioners Association about it and kept coming because she liked the people she met there.
“I do know how to cook but you can always learn something. This is good for anyone who is on their own. I like the new recipes, especially the ones from other countries. We’ve tried all sorts of different things that I wouldn’t try otherwise and it’s nice to have the things ready,” she said.
“I would say people should try it. There’s also a great social aspect to it. There should be more of these, not stopping them.”
David Colombe, one of the chefs at Sparkling Hill, and author of Colombe’s Cooking in Your Kitchen, a cookbook emphasizing local food, heads up the kitchen.
“Working with the people here is a lot of fun. People are really interested in trying new ingredients and using the ingredients they know in different ways. For example, we take a turkey apart and cook each part separately,” he said.
“We use the local bounty we see around us. This provides healthy food at a great cost. It’s important to learn to cook for yourself and people are realizing this, there are waiting lists for some sessions. It would be a shame to lose it.”
Community Kitchens coordinator Minda Chittenden said the program provides practical, hands-on skills.
“It’s eye-opening to see what skills people don’t don’t have or haven’t had a chance to learn and some of them are afraid of ovens and stoves because they don’t know how to use them. There is a gap between picking things up in the store and using the ingredients to make a healthy meal. You have to know what to get first,” said Chittenden.
The program teaches everything from preparing basic ingredients through measuring and completing a recipe and using readily available ingredients like fruit and vegetables in season, even how to use your jack-o-lantern for food after Halloween.
“People are thrilled to learn skills and they develop a sense of confidence that they can feed their families properly on a low budget. People tell us that their diets are improved and they feel less restricted. It would be a big loss to see this program stopped because it is reaching the people who can benefit from it. People want to see the program survive.”
For more information about Community Kitchens or to take part, call Chittenden at 250-542-3089.
To make a donation to Community Kitchens contact Yule at the United Way at 250-549-1346, firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.unitedwaynocs.com.