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‘Community kitchen’ cooking up successes

Enhanced skills, healthy eating, friendship building stemming from culinary program
Friday April 1, 2011 — Deron Hamel

A food-preparation program run by the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion’s (BACI) outreach department has been enhancing life skills, promoting healthy eating and creating friendships in the eight years since it began, says support worker Habiba Ratansi.

The program sees a group of about 10 people who meet on Mondays and Wednesdays to learn the basics of cooking in an interactive environment.

Habiba says the “community kitchen” is helping people enhance their independence by learning how to make sandwiches, salads and pizzas.

To enhance nutritional benefits, fresh veggies are added to canned soups.

Habiba says a major success stemming from the program is that participants are taking the skills they’re learning in class home, where they prepare meals for themselves and their families.

During programming the group will decide on a recipe to make, go through the steps to prepare the food and then serve the meal, which everyone eats together. There is always enough made so everyone has a meal to take home.

Another success Habiba says she has noticed over the years is that people are making healthier choices in their diets.

For example, when the program, which pays attention to the Canada Food Guide, began few people wanted to eat salad. Then Habiba began encouraging people to eat salads before starting main courses.

One day the group prepared a caesar salad that was “a hit” with everyone, she says.

Since then, people have been enjoying salads with their meals. To make eating salads more enjoyable the group lays out lettuce and vegetables on separate platters to create a homemade salad bar.

This, says Habiba, enhances the dining experience.

“Now people just love salad, and when we don’t have it they ask for it,” she says.

Another important function of the program is the friendships it builds. Habiba notes there’s always time for people to have a cup of tea together before meal preparation begins, giving everyone time to socialize.

“From this program people have started to build friendships; they have gotten to know each other and they know it’s a safe place to come,” she says.

If you have feedback on this story, please call the newsroom at 800-294-0051, or e-mail deron(at)axiomnews.ca.

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