What Sustains a Community Kitchen?

When we talk about a sustainable food system, we generally refer to practices of growing and processing food that build up, not deplete the earth and our finite resources. To sustain food programs year after year, all people involved must find it life-giving – growers, leaders, funders, planners, staff, volunteers & participants.

Planted has been involved in a Community Kitchen hosted at First Baptist Church since February 2013. I recently participated in one of their evening meals, and enjoyed the energy and camaraderie. I have even made the Sicilian Soup and bacon pizza we ate that night for several other community meals.

From our observations, we see this group is thriving because:

There is a core group of participants, both volunteer leaders & community members who easily welcome new people into the program & its rhythms (including everyone cleaning up together)
There is a good balance of men & women, native Vancouverites & new Canadians, skilled cooks & culinary beginners, as well as people of diverse ages
People look forward to getting together and catching up from the last few weeks, and their positivity influences newcomers
The core members exert gentle peer pressure on those who don’t pull their weight, or who treat others disrespectfully
The kitchen is spacious, homey & accessible (near public transit)
Good quality ingredients are used, and the recipes are complex enough to be interesting, while simple enough for even novice cooks
Menu suggestions from guests are incorporated, which honours their cultures & family traditions
Care & support occasionally extends beyond the community kitchen, as participants connect in other locations, and new friends help each other connect to other local resources
The group celebrates events, such as birthdays & sobriety anniversaries
Simple treats are common – fun desserts, or homemade chai

One of the core members shares this thought: Before we started, I knew the the Community Kitchen would be about more than just the food, but I never realized how much more. There is a real mutuality in the sharing of our life experiences. It is life giving for us all from the physical to social to spiritual.

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