Friends of the Rainier Community Kitchen

From guest writer, Nicole Bergman

This past spring a new community kitchen was started by a collective of women who believe that dignity, health and quality of life is significantly impacted by access to wholesome, plant-based foods. The meals prepared in the Rainier community kitchen involve anywhere from 4 -12 volunteers. Our volunteers include women who live on the Downtown Eastside at the Rainier Hotel, as well as women who live in other parts of the Greater Vancouver area.

This bi-monthly dinner occurs on Saturdays and once prepared, anyone residing at the Rainier Hotel is invited and welcome to join in. We typically have 12-20 women who participate. It’s been encouraging to see this consistently vegan/vegetarian meal embraced whole heartedly by the staff and women at the Rainier. The positive vibe, conversations and sense of vitality that occurs during our meal times is truly inspirational. We often receive comments about how great something tastes and how grateful participants are for the fresh fruit, fresh veggies and healthy entrées. We always have fun with desserts and put healthy twists on favorite treats.

I’m happy to say that although some recipes turn out better than others, everyone is gracious, complimentary and many of the women come out regularly to assist and support the community kitchen in some way. Relationships have been formed and continue to develop between the volunteers and the women who come out to dine.

Even though the focus is plant based cuisine, we canvass the women for ideas for our next menu. We do our best to incorporate all ideas, with of course a fresh vegan/veggie twist. A traditional lasagna was one request that we received and it ended up on the “Very Vegan Merry Christmas” menu without a hint of meat, dairy or gluten and it was thoroughly enjoyed! Unfortunately the woman who requested it, was actually away when we featured it, so we’ll have to rotate it back in at some point.

Delicious, nutrient dense food served in a safe, positive environment is both nourishing and restorative. I have received various comments about how this food fortifies and supports the Rainer residents’ quest for better health and how they wish they could eat like this more often. The plant based whole foods menu is viewed by many of the women as a sign that they are truly cared for because the ingredients are top quality and the menus are adjusted to take allergies and food sensitivities into consideration.

Good food takes time to source and prepare, however when we eat something made with such care, we feel appreciated, loved and alive. This community kitchen is truly a wonderful initiative to be apart of. I’m looking forward to 2014 and many more delicious and nutritious meals with this fabulous group of women!

To learn more, contact Nicole at bergman_n@yahoo.ca, or Karen at karen@plantednetwork.ca

In search of just food: Stephanie Lim at TEDx

From guest writer, Irena Forbes:

“I fight for food. And not just food, but food that is just” states Stephanie Lim in her TedTalk from Vancouver Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute. WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.

Stephanie challenges our perceptions around food. We need to consider EVERYONE involved in the food system, EVERYONE that eats, and think about why people choose the food they eat. Local food is important, but it can also cause judgement and disparity.

Considering this, what we can do? Stephanie suggests:

Who are the people – the shoppers and vendors – at the farmer’s market? Who do you see? Who don’t you see? Why is this?
How do your favourite recipes connect you to friends, family, or a special memory? How is this true for people who have immigrated or who might be oppressed? What are we asking of people when we say eat only local food? What might we be asking of people to give up?
Know and offer examples of barriers people may have to participating in buying local or organic food
Get involved in activities that bring people together as neighbours to pool their skills, life experiences and knowledge for change. Listen and share, rather than dictating knowledge.
Recognize ways we have privilege but don’t get bogged down with guilt. “Keep voting with your fork if you can but to never stop asking the questions that need to be answered if we are ever to achieve a truly just and sustainable food system and a socially just society” (Stephanie Lim).

What does this video make you think about? Please share a story, a question, or idea.