Modified Community Kitchen Initiative brings the power of food to the people
By Vivienne Hurley
Volunteers behind an initiative that aims to alleviate food poverty in Rossland, Trail and Fruitvale, have swiftly and successfully modified their program in the midst of social distancing measures so that food security can be maintained for those who need it most, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The Lower Columbia Community Kitchen builds on the premise that food has power; the power to inspire, nurture, develop new skills, promote healthier lifestyles and bring people together. It was on the brink of launching its 12-week community inclusion program with grants from Columbia Basin Trust and Kootenay Savings Credit Union when the pandemic was announced — and the Community Kitchen had to pause the program.
However, in a sharp turnaround, coordinators successfully changed the structure and logistics of the essential service to create a variation of ‘meals on wheels’ to ensure deliverables could be met and strict safety protocols adhered to. The movement then quickly amassed an army of supporters who rallied round with additional funding and wholesale discounts to cover the various costs associated with equipment, delivery packaging, cooking ingredients and co-ordination.
“Everything just happened so quickly. We had the seed of an idea for changing the program one day and then by the next morning we were ready to put it into action and had sourced suitable kitchens to make it operational,” says Morag Carter, Executive Director, Greater Trail Community Skills Centre. “The local community has been absolutely amazing, with businesses and individuals jumping straight in to help and support us,” she adds.
In Rossland, Seven Summits Centre for Learning, which is housed within the red-roofed St Andrew’s United Church, will be providing its commercial kitchen facilities at a reduced rent so that its local Community Kitchen program has a base to operate from for the next 20 weeks. From that heritage building, volunteers will still ensure the hungry are fed once a week, and the emotional toll of food poverty and feelings of isolation are greatly alleviated by the act of ‘sharing’ a meal together, even if it can’t be shared in person.
“In ordinary times there is an urgent and pressing need for food support in our community and in these extraordinary times the need is even greater,” says Ann Quarterman, the operations manager of Seven Summits Centre for Learning. When its high school learning community made the switch from blended learning to 100% online for the pandemic, the innovative educational Centre stepped in so the kitchen program could take flight. It’s a movement that has been echoed by The United Church in Trail and The Memorial Hall in Fruitvale. “We’re just happy that we are in a position to help. Food security remains a top priority in our communities and individuals can continue to support the cause by donating to their local food banks,” she adds.
Each community kitchen (located in the areas of Rossland, Trail and Fruitvale) costs in the region of $7500 to run for 20 weeks, feeding some 18 households in each area of operation. Under the revamped model of operation, low cost nutritious meals will be cooked and distributed by coordinators and volunteers once a week with ingredients sourced from food banks and supermarket specials. The program is currently financed and supported by Columbia Basin Trust, Kootenay Savings Community Foundation, Teck Metals, Rotary Club of Trail and Seven Summits Centre for Learning.
The Lower Columbia Community Kitchen program, provided by The Greater Trail Community Skills Centre, is free for qualifying low-income families and individuals. Local food banks have been instrumental in helping coordinators reach low income people who are food insecure but anyone in need can contact Sandra Ballantyne (Rossland) on 250 231-9879 or email email@example.com.