A group of foodies looking to learn more about cooking, healthy eating and pinching pennies gathered in Hay River recently to discuss the opening of the town’s first community kitchen, just weeks away from an official launch.
Based on similar programs across North America, the community kitchen will supply bulk ingredients and host regular cooking days for participants to work together to create healthy meals from scratch.
An information night held two weeks ago to gauge interest levels in the community was successful, said Franziska Ulbricht, who is coordinating the program alongside Rosie Wallington.
Northern Transportation Company Ltd. has offered its building in Hay River to operate the weekly program and Ulbricht said they are on track to see the kitchen open within a month.
Ulbricht said the main goal of the community kitchen is to save people money, since cooking from scratch and using bulk ingredients is more economical in the long run, but the spinoff results also mean healthier food and time well spent.
“It’s an old idea. Back in the days during harvesting time, people would do the preserving and canning and such together or have a community feast. There’s many ways of people coming together to cook,” she said.
After cooking together once a week, the participants can choose how many portions they want to purchase at a cost of $3.00 or $1.50 for children. Participants will also be encouraged to buy portions to take home and freeze for later in the week.
“It’s good for families where the parents work full time, but it could also be for young mothers who are home with their newborns and want to learn how to cook, or for seniors who don’t want to cook by themselves. For different reasons, it can be for so many different people,” Ulbricht said.
A grant from the NWT department of Health and Social Services covered the cost of setting up the program, including kitchen supplies and any fee to rent the facility.
Another huge benefit to the program is education, Ulbricht said.
“Hopefully it gets a variety of people together that come from all different backgrounds and some will be able to teach others,” she said. “It’s a lot about education, but also the joy and fun of cooking together.”
As the program grows, Ulbricht said she would like to focus more on buying local foods from the territory, whether it be fish from Great Slave Lake or fresh produce from local farms.
Ideally, the organizers would like to set up trips for program participants to visit local producers around Hay River and learn about self harvesting, she said.
The community kitchen is an initiative of the Hay River Commons Cooperative, a community business that promotes healthy, local eating.
Ulbricht encourages people to sign up for the program, but they plan to allow drop ins once it is up and running. Find out more at www.facebook.com/groups/HayRiverCommunityKitchen/