For those of you who may not know, Community Kitchens is a collaborative initiative between the Center for Community Partnerships, Hart House, and the Health & Wellness Centre at UofT. At these events, students help prepare a meal (and eat the meal afterwards!) and engage in discussions about community building and social justice issues.
I attended my first Community Kitchen last week at Koffler House and it was for the First Year Learning Communities and the Centre for International Experience students (I was there on behalf of the CCP team, to see what it was all about!). We made a rice dish with beans, vegetables, and tomato broth. The cooking session was led by Elvia Peñate, who is a Youth Outreach Worker for the LGBTQ community at Griffin Centre.
After we cut the vegetables and set them to cook along with the rice in a crock pot, we all sat down together to have discussions about food and it’s important role in community. We were split up into separate groups, and we were each given a scenario where we would have to provide food for an event with a very limited budget. We were encouraged to keep the meals healthy and to plan something we could make ourselves instead of purchasing. We also had to keep dietary restrictions in mind, such as vegetarian or Halal options. Serving food to others in a diverse community means that you have to be considerate of their needs! Everyone managed to come up with smart and thrifty solutions and I think that everyone learned a lot! The issue of food insecurity in our city is so important and it was a valuable experience to learn more about it with my peers.
I got a chance to speak with Charlotte Stewart, the Special Projects Assistant at the CCP about how she thinks the Community Kitchen program has been going so far and why it’s so important:
“For the most part, it’s been going pretty smoothly. It’s a very fluid and dynamic program, so we have to be pretty adaptable. Students have been reacting pretty well and I think they’re getting a lot out of it! The energy in this space is really positive and it’s community building at work on multiple levels. Food is central to a lot of communities and I think that the process of making food and really using it to connect with people is something we lose touch with in university. So Community Kitchens is a great opportunity!”
Charlotte is right! In the hustle and bustle of university life, it’s easy to lose touch with cooking or even sitting around and having a proper meal with friends. These events are also a good way to meet your peers, learn a new recipe, engage in dialogue about social issues, and be part of the UofT community!