3 min read

Community Kitchens: Where good food makes for good finances.

Demand for emergency food support in Calgary is growing at an alarming rate.  Calgary Food Bank reports a 10% increase in clients year on year.  Social isolation is also on the rise in our city due to immigration, unemployment and an aging population.

So, how do we feed our communities physically as well as socially?

BowWest Community Resource Centre in the northwest has been running community kitchen programs since 2009.  They also supply locals with emergency food supplies, such as fresh fruit and veg through the Food Link program, Food Bank referrals and connect them to nearby Good Food Box organizations.

Executive Director, Katherine Kautz, says that while requests for emergency food supplies has “skyrocketed” she believes their Connection through Cooking programs are “an important part of the way forward”.

“It’s a way to increase food security in our communities and that’s currently one of our biggest issues.  People need to be able to afford to eat and sadly after rent and utilities have been paid there’s often not much left over for good, healthy food.”

The fact of the matter is that the less you have to spend on groceries, the poorer your economy will be.

“Community cooking allows us to buy in bulk so it’s much cheaper.  But we also teach cooking skills and give nutritional guidance so people are not only stretching their dollars, they’re also growing their capacity to continue to cook nutritious meals at home.”

BowWest runs four Connection through Cooking programs which are open to residents of Bowness, Montgomery and Greenwood Village, including one specifically for older adults.

“The social aspect of community cooking is also huge, especially for older adults and parents of young children.  It’s a way for people to connect and come together over food in a way they might not get to do anymore.”

Roman Katsnelson, Managing Director of Community and Economic Development at Carya, believes that community programs like these have a huge role to play in creating food security in Calgary.

“38% of people who accessed the Calgary Food Bank in 2014 had at least one employed person in their home.  Food insecurity is widespread and it threatens hundreds of thousands of households in our city, every day. 

“Food banks do an incredible job and are a critical resource in ensuring people are fed in the short-term but they need to be supplemented by long-term, community-driven solutions, like Community Kitchens.  Initiatives like these create local, resilient micro-economies and an environment where people can support each other to build long term food security.” 

Connection through Cooking programs take place on a regular basis where participants will cook 5-6 recipes per session, making 6 portions of each recipe to take home.  Cost is on a per portion basis and savings are substantial for families and individuals.

A free babysitting facility is available as are subsidies for food costs for those in need.

For more information or to enroll in a program email: cooking@bowwest.com

Thinking of starting your own Community Kitchen?  Check out Alberta Health Services Collective Kitchen Manual.