The Shelbourne Community Kitchen did Monday what does it does best throughout the year: open its doors to the public in a spirit of hospitality, as it hosted its first open house.
“We really want the community to come in to show them the community kitchen, so that they can know what we are all about, to see what we do here,” said Laura Cochrane, board chair.
Located in a modest house in the 3500 block of Shelbourne Street, the facility offers programs that teach participants how to source, choose and prepare healthy food more affordably through its communal kitchen where participants receive cooking lessons from trained volunteers, almost half of which are also program participants. The kitchen also runs a garden and serves as a resource centre, building relations and resilience along the way. It also runs an emergency pantry program, where participants can select one item from one shelf, two from another, not forgetting to take a selection of produce from the fridge, much of it grown on site.
As Cochrane was speaking, she stood in the kitchen of the facility. The open house had started just a few minutes earlier and the place was already buzzing with locals and others involved with the kitchen. Cochrane had just wrapped up a tour of the house. Program co-ordinator Kim Cummins, meanwhile, was leading another group of visitors through the building, explaining its operations.
The organization emerged after representatives from partnering organizations – St. Aidan’s United Church, St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Mount Tolmie Community Association and Camosun Community Association – had been noticing signs of rising food insecurity in the area. Developments since have borne out that observation.
“We have had a lot of steady growth since we opened our doors here in March 2015,” said Cochrane. “We began our programs at the end of 2013, but at this site here, we have had incredible growth and that continues.”
The kitchen leases its current space, and runs it under a temporary use permit. Saanich first approved the permit for the facility’s current location in September 2014 for a three-year-period, and extended it two months ago.
A committee is currently looking at a variety of options, said Cochrane.
“An option could be to stay here and work out some kind of arrangement, whereby the zoning would change, that would enable us to stay here,” she said. “As you can appreciate, there are other options as well.” They include leasing space elsewhere, or starting a capital campaign to eventually purchase a site.
Regardless of the eventual choice, it must meet at least one criteria. “We always want to be on a bus route to make it easier for our program participants to come here and make use of our services.”
Cochrane, for her part, would like the facility to remain in the Shelbourne Valley area. “Being on Shelbourne, there are so many buses, it is so easy to access, and it has great visibility.”