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Starting a Community Kitchen: Thoughts from Vulcan’s Community Kitchen June 15, 2010

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.
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Community kitchens can be a great way of growing a positive food culture and building local community. Vulcan’s Community Kitchen had its start about a year ago, and in the process we’ve learned a few things about how to get a kitchen group going. Here are some steps we went through:
· Building a team: Starting with a coalition of people can ensure that the kitchen initiative has a strong and supportive base, such that it is sustainable. Establishing a group can also ensure that ideas and strategies are bounced around and built on.
· Finding a facility and scoping it out: We use a recreation complex in town, to which we are luckily given free access. Churches often have kitchen facilities, as do high schools and other community group facilities. When looking for a facility, keep in mind the need for counter space and multiple elements. Once you’ve settled on a spot, a checklist of utensils and dishes you might require could be handy. If you have access to some funding, consider purchasing the essentials that are missing from your kitchen (thrift stores are great for sticking to shoestring budgets).
· Getting the word out there: We’ve gradually gotten to know the key poster spots around town, and become familiar with community newsletters. We keep a contact list of kitchen attendees, and get in touch when a new session is around the corner. Keeping a blog with the recipes used and relevant details can also be helpful (ours is www.vulcancooks.blogspot.com).
· Figuring out a format that works for the group, and being flexible: Initially, we were meeting first to select recipes, make budgets and do some planning, and then a week later we were cooking. While this created a great inclusive meal-planning process, the format that has worked better for our members is to get straight to the cooking, and to plan for next time as we cook. We received some funding through various food producers associations, and we have therefore decided to keep the meal price steady around $2.00 per serving. Cooks register for each individual kitchen session as it arises, and decide beforehand how many servings they will be making, such that the coordinator can make a budget. The format of your kitchen sessions can really depend on the needs and wants of the kitchen participants.
· On that note, it is important to be open to feedback throughout the process. Maybe there are some people who would more easily participate if a group babysitting arrangement were made, or if car-pooling happened. Making your kitchen nights as accessible as possible helps ensure there is a diverse range of participants.
· A few things to bring: print-out’s of budget-making sheets and recipe sheets, a couple calculators, enough pens to go around, and a few recipe books to flip through can really help your recipe planning process. On cooking nights, we usually bring some research on the nutritional pros and cons of the meal ahead.
· Sharing the leadership role: It has been very positive for our kitchen group to rotate recipe leaders. This way, community members get to be in the driver’s seat.
Whether your kitchen nights involve passionate discussions of food system reform, or are just great get-togethers involving food, community kitchens can add flavour to your community and are part of supporting local food security. Enjoy your meals!

More resources:
· Alberta Health Services periodically puts on great introductory courses for new collective kitchen coordinators (http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/services.asp?pid=service&rid=1599)
· Fresh Choice Kitchens has a great Community Kitchen toolkit on their site http://www.communitykitchens.ca/main/?CKToolkit

Written by Meredith Seeton

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Comments»

1. susan roberts - June 17, 2010

Great work Vulcan…spread it around to others..keep us posted!

2. Tips on Doing a Great CK | Community Kitchens Northwest - June 23, 2010

[…] are suggestions from Vulcan’s community kitchen in Alberta, Canada on how to get a great community kitchen […]


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