The goal of the Inuvik Community Kitchen is simple - to get people cooking.
The pilot project, which is funded through the GNWT Anti-Poverty Fund, is the brainchild of East Three Secondary School’s Patrick Gale.
“As foods teacher, I’ve always felt that one of the activities in the community that was lacking was some way to get adults to develop positive attitudes about trying new foods that might be healthier,” he said.
“I also like the idea of different people coming together.”
Twice per month, the school opens its kitchen doors to community members who are keen to cook, share a meal and take dishes home to their families to be enjoyed later in the week. No prior cooking experience is necessary and adults of all skill levels and backgrounds are welcome.
“You can’t just tell people to eat healthier if they don’t have the desire or the skill set to make healthy foods for themselves,” Gale said. “They need to know what to buy, and they need ideas of what to cook.”
Gale cited a North American study that showed more than 70 per cent of foods in grocery stores were not considered healthy. The goal of the menus is to choose foods that are healthy to eat, affordable in Inuvik and “somewhat familiar, but exotic at the same time,” to expand people’s interests.
He said his goal with the pilot program is to attract a wide array of participants, from teachers and government workers to low-income families and single moms.
In addition, past foods students of East Three Secondary School are given the opportunity to work as program assistants, so they can earn extra income, gain industry experience and participate in positive community engagement, Gale said.
Some of the produce used was even grown and harvested by Gale’s students at the Inuvik Community Greenhouse.
Deirdre Dimitroff, a program participant and teacher at the school, attended for her second time last Saturday. She said she loves getting the chance to try to new foods and cook together in a fully stocked and equipped kitchen.
“I like to come here to get variety in what I eat,” she said. “When you live in a remote place, it’s difficult to have food that isn’t always the same.”
Alexandra Pulwicki, a Frontiers Foundation volunteer from the University of Calgary, has been to all four weeks of the community kitchen program and is eager to continue.
“I really enjoy cooking and learning about new foods and sharing that experience with others,” she said. “You need food to live, but you can enjoy it at the same time.”
Pulwicki said her first experience with a community kitchen was at university where they run a similar program. In addition to the delicious food, it’s a great way to meet people, she said.
At the first three weeks of the Inuvik Community Kitchen, Pulwicki helped cook French, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. She shared the recipe for one of her favourite Middle Eastern dishes, shakshouka, with friends on Facebook and replicated it at home so she could share it with others.
“The sharing goes beyond the kitchen here too,” she said.
The Inuvik Community Kitchen runs through March and is free for the public. Gale said he is hoping to renew funding so that he can continue to offer it throughout 2015. The kitchen is also accepting monetary donations, half of which go to charities like the Inuvik Food Bank and the other half to groceries.
The next community kitchen will run on Nov. 30 at East Three Secondary School. The menu will feature Eastern European recipes.