Community Through Food & Friendship: L’Arche Saskatoon’s Partnership With CHEP Good Food Inc.
By Nicole Linzmeyer, SARC Communications Officer
Partnerships create unique opportunities for SARC Members to offer opportunities that are community-based and meaningful to clients. No matter the time commitment, type of organization, or number of clients impacted, developing partnerships with other organizations, groups, or businesses is a fantastic way to offer new experiences to the people that you support.
A fantastic example of a community partnership is the Collective Kitchen program at L’Arche Saskatoon. L’Arche partnered with CHEP Good Food Inc. to bring the Collective Kitchen to their organization seven years ago. Every few weeks, this group of eight people gets together to prepare nutritious meals that they can take home to their families. Food is always a great way to bring people together, so we asked Krista Loewen, the Collective Kitchen Leader, a few questions to learn more about this partnership and the relationships it has formed:
What is the Collective Kitchen and how did the program begin at L’Arche Saskatoon?
The Friends of L’Arche Collective Kitchen is a group of eight people with and without disabilities who gather to cook meals with the purpose of sharing it with their families. We pool our resources and time to make the cooking accessible for everyone! We meet about every six weeks for our cooking sessions. Our group is focused on building friendships, trying out new things and empowering everyone to feed themselves and the community around them. We are all connected to L’Arche in different ways: residents in our homes, staff, parents, friends and colleagues.
Our Collective Kitchen grew out of two friends who began meeting in 2010 to make crafts on Sunday afternoons. More people began to join them and at a certain point, we wanted to do more together! The Collective Kitchen model seemed like a great fit for us. L’Arche is founded on the philosophy that we all have gifts to share.
Our Collective Kitchen is just that: collective. Everyone helps in the areas in which they shine. Some people are better at chopping, some prefer washing dishes, and some prefer recipe testing! We all have a choice as to which tasks we work on and when we come together and share what we have to offer we create some pretty delicious feasts! After receiving a week-long training from CHEP, our group was official, and we continue to cook together seven years later.
Can you describe the partnership that has formed with CHEP Good Food Inc. and its overall impact on programming at L’Arche Saskatoon?
CHEP has had a significant impact in L’Arche Saskatoon’s Collective Kitchen as it provides some funding for each participant of our program. There are also social gatherings for all of Saskatoon’s Collective Kitchens that we attend as a L’Arche group. This also allows us to meet new people and share about the work that L’Arche Saskatoon does. We receive training and support from CHEP as Collective Kitchen leaders. This training includes nutritional information, tips on facilitating group sessions and great recipes. Plus, one of our participants is the daughter of the CHEP Collective Kitchen coordinator so we are closely connected! Thank you CHEP for this opportunity!
What are some of the goals of the program?
To have fun and enjoy each other’s friendship! We love getting together and focus on having social coffee breaks as well as getting some hard work done in the kitchen. We are always interested in learning new tips and recipes that we can share with our families but we don’t have formal lessons. It is more organic! Each participant learns cooking skills (for example, tips on how to juice lemons easily) and how to adapt recipes to make them more healthy (such as swapping yogurt for mayo).
Another goal is to share food with our families and community. Each participant has the opportunity to bring home a well-rounded meal to share with others. This builds a sense of pride, ownership and hospitality in all that we do together. We also love to celebrate each participant’s gifts and abilities. And of course, to eat delicious food!
What have been some of the benefits of the Collective Kitchen?
I would say that the biggest benefit of the program is the sense of community and pride that each participant feels when we come together. We think that (most of) the food that we make is the best! It feels awesome to share that with those around us as an act of outreach. We have grown close together as friends and supports for one another. We have walked alongside each other through weddings, funerals, hospital stays, changing jobs and many other transitions. When we get together to cook it brings us together and creates a common space for us to share about our lives. The L’Arche Collective Kitchen is food for the body and the soul.
We also get to enjoy some very delicious foods. Some of our favourites have been chocolate quinoa cake, honey-baked lentils, chicken wings and goat cheese salad! We also laugh a lot together. At our first session together, we tried to make bread and it was a disaster! But we had fun and we joke about it ever since.
Do you have any additional comments on community partnerships and their impact on your organization?
Community partnerships are foundational for L’Arche Saskatoon as we continue to grow in the city. Not only do they help us with the logistics of a program, i.e. funding and training, but they also give the L’Arche community a chance to connect with others in natural ways. Rather than being pigeonholed into programming solely for individuals with disabilities, CHEP and other community partnerships allow us to build and model mutual friendships. Regardless of ability we all have the capacity for friendship and can share our gifts. Being connected with other organizations allows L’Arche Saskatoon to demonstrate this in organic ways.