Protein & Community Kitchens

When a Greeting is More than “What’s the Meat In Our Meal Tonight?”

From Simeon, our community kitchen coordinator (who gives away his British identity here by using “lasagne,” the plural of “lasagna” that we tend to use in the New World).

Each week, I (Simeon) attend a medium-sized community meal which promotes inclusion and ownership through participation. As a group, we work together to prepare a meal that is eaten by up to 50 people. All are encouraged to contribute financially ($2), or by helping out with a set-up chore or cleaning at the end of the night.

In doing so, we recognise that shared experiences bring together a diverse group of cultural backgrounds, age groups, lifestyles from the neighbourhood, parks and streets surrounding the church and we realise our need for companionship and shared purpose. The majority of those who come every Thursday night, do so out of respect and in service to the wider community.

However each week, almost as often as I am greeted and asked how my day went, I am asked the meaty question, “What are we having for dinner?” Some nights I take this at face value and answer “curry”, or say “it’s lasagne,” without saying what the dish’s key ingredients are. But the reason I’ve been told outright by some guests who ask that question, is that other places that offer food don’t serve meat [but we do]. And that’s a big draw to this particular programme.

And I understand, don’t get me wrong. As a true omnivore – I like the taste of the odd steak, sausage or wing. But for those who are constrained financially, who rely on food banks, charity soup kitchens and faith-based free meals, you can feel the disappointment when you answer the question of “What’s in the meal”, by saying that it’s vegetarian.

I already try to diversify the types of protein we serve at the community meal I run out of Grandview Calvary Baptist. In fact, there are many alternative protein sources and meats are not our only choice. In addition to the humble chickpea, bean or tofu for example, did you know that quinoa, peanut butter, green peas and hemp are all rich sources of protein?

Once a month, we also ask our diners to join together in our quest to show respect for the earth and the impact our choices make to the environment. We do so by eating in a way that diminishes our community’s ecological impact on the environment – by going vegetarian.

We do this because the amount of water and grain that goes into the production of beef, for example, as well as the CO2 emitted, demonstrates the massive footprint exerted every time we gulp down a beef stew or enjoy a juicy open faced beef sandwich (both on offer, in the past, at the community meal). The truth is, we really don’t need to eat so much meat, not from a health perspective, nutrition perspective, environmental perspective and not from the cow’s perspective!

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