A Community Kitchen = Family meal prep made social!

As summertime approaches, cooking seems to take on a whole new dynamic. Suddenly, a wealth of fresh produce is available, the weather is beautiful… it’s enough to make you want to socialize more and perhaps spend a tad less time around the oven. Enter the community kitchen. If you’re ready to turn family meal prep into a social event, take note.  Community kitchens offer a place for people to gather together in a big kitchen, cook up large batches of dinners, package them up and take them back home. Each person ends up with a variety of meals to last the whole week. For the busy parent looking to socialize and make family dinners easy, what could be more perfect? Here we chat with Milisa Gardy, Food Security Coordinator at the Strathcona Community Centre to give you an idea of what this experience looks like in action.

BT: Milisa, how did you get involved in a Community Kitchen?

MG: “Well, for years, I’ve been informally gathering people together to cook. I used to live on Cortez Island, which is very community oriented, and that’s what people tend to do there [gather to cook]. When I came to Vancouver, I was put in touch with Diane from Fresh Choice Kitchens and that’s when I found out about all of the many community kitchens running in Vancouver and the resources available for people like me.

BT: Why did you decide to bring the community kitchen program to the Strathcona Community Centre?

MG: I felt the people here would really benefit from a shared cooking experience. I wanted to offer a place where people could gather with others to make food, share food, store their food, and stock up for the week- to offer both a practical and helpful experience for families.

BT: Can you please describe how you went about getting your community kitchen started?

MG: My first step was to get the community centre kitchen ready for large-scale cooking. I needed to gather all the equipment we’d need—things like tea towels, canning jars, storage containers, etc.- to accommodate people cooking large batches of food. Fresh Choice totally supported us in getting everything ready. One great resource they offered us was the Many Hands Cookbook. This cookbook provides large-scale recipes with basic ingredients and was perfect for our program.

BT: And how did your first community kitchen go?

MG: It was great! People really liked it and we actually found that the longer it ran, the better it was for relationship building. I’m actually in the process of getting another community kitchen program going specifically for moms. The focus will be getting women together to cook several meals that will last their family the week. For this program, I’m going to get the moms taking turns doing the childcare, on-site, which I think will work very well here!

BT: What would you say is the biggest benefit from cooking with others that you’ve seen in your program?

MG: I loved that we had children involved and they were so excited! There were tasks for them to do, like cutting and portioning out ingredients. We had different generations together and everyone was working together, sharing recipes. Overall, it was just a very fun time with practical benefits for everyone who participated! Actually, because we have so many diverse cultures in the Strathcona neighborhood, I’d also like to run an intergenerational multicultural community kitchen in the future. I’d like to do something that people could prep food in the style they are familiar with cooking, and we could rotate the cultural focus.

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That sounds great! Thanks so much for chatting with us Milisa, and giving us a better idea of what a community kitchen looks like in action. This is a great resource that many people out there just don’t know about. If you have any questions about community kitchens or have your own experience to share, join the conversation here

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