Community kitchens in Winnipeg, people cooking together, building community together

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Ripat, Geoff.
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Changes in the job market and in government responses to providing social security have resulted in increasing difficulties for Canadians in meeting their day-to-day needs. High among these needs is food security. The study examines local community kitchens, a community development response to meeting this need which has benefits beyond just feeding hungry people. The study uses a qualitative research methodology, and gathered information by conducting twelve open-ended interviews with people who work in and around community kitchens as participants, facilitators, and organizers. The study examined the origins, structure, and goals of the groups, as well as the needs that members felt that they were meeting. The study also examined the differences in structure and potential between community kitchens and food banks as places for enhancing food security, self esteem, and personal and community empowerment. The interviewees generally felt that community kitchens were successful in meeting the goals that they aimed to accomplish. These goals and successes came in the areas of skill building around cooking, budgeting and nutrition, with many of the skills being transferred laterally within the group as members learn from one another. Community kitchens were also identified as places in which members received tangible, emotional, and informational supports, and linked participants to both formal and informal helping networks within the community. They were also identified as vehicles through which individual and community empowerment was built. While there are difficulties that were identified both in the day-to-day operations of the kitchen groups as well as with the model itself, community kitchens provide many benefits to their members, sponsoring organizations, and host communities. They are stepping stones in the process of building individual capacity and community development.