Pasta Making at a Commuity Kitchen

February19

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Recently I was invited to share my love of pasta-making at Jubilee Mennonite Church’s Community Kitchen. The afternoon was an absolute delight from start to finish.  I loved being able to share my expertise with such an enthusiastic bunch of women. If you have ever wondered about a Community Kitchen, here is an edited version of the story of Jubilee’s Kitchen, written by their Community Ministry Director.

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It’s a feast for the senses: the smell of savory spices; the taste of fresh, healthy food; the sounds of children playing and women chatting; the touch of supportive embrace; the sight of women and children of different cultures, economic status, and age; the sense of God’s Spirit moving. This is the Jubilee Mennonite Church Community Kitchen in Winnipeg, Canada, on a Tuesday afternoon.

It started by accident. Seven years ago, the church basement flooded. The resulting renovation included upgrading the kitchen to be more functional, as well as upgrading the basement for the daycare renting the space. But when the renovations were complete, the daycare decided to stay at their temporary location. What to do with the upgraded kitchen?

A partnership was formed. Donwood Public School provided a staff member and a financial contribution, while Jubilee provided the space, staff support, volunteers for watching children, and donations of food. This partnership fit with the church’s commitment to be present in the community. It started in May, 2010.

The neighborhood around Jubilee Church is economically and culturally diverse. Alongside middle-class detached homes, there are three low-income housing developments within three blocks. There are immigrants from many countries, aboriginal people, single moms, and about seven hundred children. Some of  neighbors deal with issues of poverty, inadequate housing, addictions, poor mental health, and racism. Four years ago, Jubilee decided to support a half-time Community Ministry Director to lead engagement with the neighbours in projects like a children’s club, youth activities, soccer and hockey clubs, a community garden, community meals – and of course the Community Kitchen.

One mom’s experience at the first Community Kitchen day showed the possibilities that might come from this project. She arrived, and after welcoming her we told her we would be making shepherd’s pie. She responded by saying, “I can’t make that. I have never made a home-cooked meal.” We reassured her that it would be okay, and that we would make it together. At the end of the afternoon, she held up her shepherd’s pie and said, “I did it! I did it!” with a beaming smile. She took her first homemade meal back to feed her family.

In the Community Kitchen women have found a place to belong, find and offer support, love and be loved, weep and laugh. Food is the equalizing force. Relationships can be built and flourish around food – we all need to eat. The participants talk about being “blessed…by learning different ways of preparing meals, and sometimes the culture it comes from.” Participants and leaders celebrate meeting and making new friends, and they say the program lets them be more involved with the church.

Two volunteers plan the meals and prepare the snacks. Hedy attends Jubilee, and Jody, who had no previous connection with Jubilee, volunteered when she heard about the program. In a recent evaluation Jody reported that she started volunteering as a way to help others, and she has developed a deep love for women she would otherwise never have met. “Many of the women started off at community kitchen very shy and closed off but most have opened up in ways that are so beautiful. I hear them talking about how they help each other and look out for each other. They all have struggles but knowing they have the support of other caring woman can make all the difference!”

Volunteers from the congregation care for the children during Community Kitchen. For many mothers, this is the only time in the week when they are free from minding their children. Jubilee Community Kitchen continues to evolve. Donwood Public School changed its priorities and is no longer a partner in the Community Kitchen. But other contributors have come forward, including government grants, community organizations, local businesses and individuals. Without these partners we could not sustain the program. Participants in the program have begun to make their own contributions to the surrounding neighborhood. They organize and run a clothing fair each spring and fall, where neighbors can purchase a garbage bag of donated clothes for only $1.00.

Manija is a Muslim woman who recently immigrated from Afghanistan; she teaches us how to make her traditional foods and bakes naan for community meals. Two women make extra meals to deliver to the ill or bereaved. Many Community Kitchen participants volunteer at the church’s annual community Christmas dinner. Some also participate in the community garden, farming thirty plots where neighbors and church members grow organic vegetables to feed their families and to contribute to community meals. Faith, one of the participants, caught the essence in a note to the leaders: “Community Kitchen changed me in ways that made me a better person inside and out of Jubilee Church. It’s not just a place you go to cook. It’s a place you go to learn, listen, receive the opportunity to build new friendships, and to give and get the support you may need.”

Kath’s quote: “Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.”-Paul Ryan

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Love never fails.

 

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posted under Food Security
2 Comments to

“Pasta Making at a Commuity Kitchen”

  1. Avatar February 19th, 2016 at 11:37 am Sande Says:

    What a heart-warming story. I love this. As a society we desperately need more community sharing events. Women supporting each other is a key to empowerment and to fostering a sense of well-being. I loved this story. :)


  2. Avatar February 19th, 2016 at 11:56 am Kathryne Says:

    Thanks for your note of encouragement Sande.


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