Remarkable: something that deserves remark; worthy of being noticed as being uncommon or extraordinary.
That’s the perfect way to describe Community Kitchen, a program run by North Kildonan Mennonite Church.
Every second Tuesday afternoon, a group of eight women gathers to learn how to cook low-cost nutritious meals for their families. Their kids play with toys in the church’s auditorium and a group of volunteers share the work of helping the women in the kitchen and caring for the children.
The program provides many benefits for all involved. The participants improve their food preparation and food storage skills, learn about the importance of healthy nutrition, learn about native Manitoban foods and improve social and English-language skills. The children practise their English skills and are able to socialize with other children in a safe environment.
The volunteers get the warm and fuzzies: the satisfaction of teaching, the joy of interacting with community members, watching the children grow and seeing the students flourish.
Feedback is an important part of the process. After the cooking is finished, the participants, their kids and the volunteers gather over coffee and a healthy snack for a discussion.
Participants are encouraged to make decisions and offer comments on a variety of topics such as summer food safety, recipes that were enjoyed, ideas for improvement and upcoming events such as the Clothing Fair. Participant Anne Marie Giesbrecht told me "I would not miss a class."
The positive response to the program has even generated a waiting list for participation.
The Community Kitchen is an initiative that was originally set up jointly with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in 2001.
According to organizer Anne Peters, "There were over 20 of them set up, but they all folded."
This is primarily because it is reliant on volunteers. The program at the North Kildonan Mennonite Church is the last of the original members left standing, but that hasn’t stopped it from persevering.
Although the Community Kitchen now operates solely with the support of the church, its members and groups within the church, the group is helping to grow the idea in other communities. They have taught various organizations the ins and outs of how to run and maintain a Community Kitchen in their own neighborhood.
Aptly named, the Community Kitchen program captures the essence of community. It is truly remarkable how a simple idea — good recipes and dedicated volunteers — come together to make such a positive difference in the lives of community members.
The Community Kitchen meets every second Tuesday afternoon from September to May. For more information, contact North Kildonan Mennonite Church at (204) 663-5059.
Charlene Kroll is a correspondent for North Kildonan.