How Can you Connect Through Cooking?

Published January 11, 2017 17:02

How does English Second Language training and cooking class mix? Cooking enthusiast Barbara Rigg can tell you. Barbara was looking for a volunteer opportunity. Her friend Teresa Murray (our Central Area Director) suggested that Barbara start a Community Kitchen Program.

Community Kitchen programs are a staple of Boys and Girls Clubs. Each program is designed to meet the specific needs of the community in which it is located. Barbara liked the idea and started the first Martin Avenue Community Kitchen in January of 2014. Her program was based on an experiential model where participants do all of the cooking themselves. Participants then get to take their meals home to their families.

Connecting Through Cooking began with one participant. This participant was new to Canada and wanted to learn how to comfortably cook Western-style cuisine. She soon invited friends to join the program. As a result, the regulars Barbara started to see every week came from very diverse backgrounds.

Language barriers made following Barbara’s initial recipes difficult for participants. Fortunately, Barbara was well-equipped to remedy the situation. As a former ESL teacher, Barbara knew how to simplify complicated English. She used the same techniques that helped her ESL students to edit recipes for the cooking program.

Barbara’s sensitivity to participants' needs created a safe, non-judgmental environment for participants. “I enjoy learning a different country's food because I usually cook Japanese food,” said one participant. In addition to meeting language needs, Barbara adjusted recipes to account for allergies, family size, and personal preferences. Her personalized innovations have included a yogurt-based tiramisu and a vegetarian butternut squash chili.

Ctc2A majority of Connecting Through Cooking participants are returning. For one participant, the program is a means for building on cooking experience. “I cook for my career, but I am also a mother and I wanted to learn more about “comfort foods” and “home cooking” for my family,” said the participant. For all of the participants, the program is a fun, social way to learn new skills and help their families.

If you are interested in learning more about Connecting Through Cooking, contact Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs Martin Avenue at 250-762-3914. The program offers free child-minding during sessions so parents can rest easy while they learn to cook.

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