Every Monday at The Salvation Army’s Community Kitchen in Parry Sound, Ont., individuals, families and youth with low income, are building confidence and skills that enable them to stretch their tight budgets, avoid hunger and make healthy choices.
“I love this group,” says class attendee, Kelly. “It’s lots of fun.”
"I don't have access to a computer or recipes," says Teresa, another participant. "The class helps me eat healhty on my tight budget."
The Community Kitchen is a collaborative between The Salvation Army Parry Sound, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve and the Parry Sound Friendship Centre. Supported by the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and the Parry Sound District Social Services Administration, the program’s goal is to create vibrant and sustainable communities. There is no cost to attend a class, but it is asked that participants consider a $2 donation to help with program expenses.
“We teach people how to make healthy and affordable meals from scratch,” says Glenda Clayton, project coordinator. “The kitchen is also a place where people can socialize, tell stories, build friendships and address specific health concerns. For example, some participants are worried about osteoporosis, so we’ll have a dietician come in to talk about how to increase calcium in a diet to promote good bone health.”
Clayton says that attendees drive the theme and direction of each class. The “Mix, Mingle and Measure” group (who tend to be over age 50) want to incorporate new foods into their diet and are adventurous with their selections. The “Beyond Kraft Dinner” group (who are early 20s and young parents) want to learn things such as how to make your own granola, soups and pizza.
“Many of our participants come from difficult situations,” says Clayton. “After paying rent, they try to survive on $100 a month. We encourage them to bring containers to the program and take leftovers home. That often means they have ready-made meals once or twice a week and can stretch their food dollars a little further.”
The desire to eat healthy is there, but tight budgets make it challenging for people with low-income to experiment and incorporate new foods into their diets. The community kitchen is addressing topics such as meal planning, how to grocery shop and get away from packaged and frozen foods, and self-sustainability, all while having fun at the same time.
Photo: courtesy of Paige Phillips