Community Kitchen brings seniors together for healthy food and good company
Friday July 8, 2011 — Ryan Rogers
Adult care workers John Dunlop and Habiba Ratansi’s work with seniors in BACI’s Community Kitchen to provide opportunities for individuals to prepare healthy meals and a chance to socialize.
It’s important for the social aspect to be integrated into the program because it might be the individuals’ only social outlet during the week.
John has only recently joined with the seniors but says they are enthusiastic and look forward to the kitchen and participating in the cooking, eating and cleaning.
He says the most rewarding part is encouraging the individuals to prepare nutritious meals for themselves to eat together, adding that the social nature of the community meal preparation helps support the development of friendly relationships.
John is becoming a senior himself, with his 61st birthday coming in August.
Supervisor of outreach services Cherry Sheena says John and Habiba are offering wisdom to the individuals at the Community Kitchen.
She says John has a wealth of experience, and the individuals flock to him.
“I think the individuals feel very safe around him,” says Cherry. “He’s a very good listener, and I think that’s something that comes very naturally to him.”
Habiba, 62, has been nicknamed “Mama Habiba” because she’s taken on a motherly role co-ordinating the shopping and meal planning, and she’s very careful about preparing healthy meals.
“She’s assertive in that way, to make sure people are eating properly,” says Cherry.
Habiba prepares the meals according to the Canada Food Guide, and ensures the seniors eat enough vegetables and fruits, which can sometimes be lacking in their diet.
Working in the Community Kitchen together helps the seniors prepare foods they might not otherwise make for themselves.
“When they’re living alone it’s hard for them to have a salad and cut up fresh fruit,” says Habiba, indicating their motor skills can decline with age.
She makes sure the food is free of saturated fats, and refuses to stock any junk food in the Community Kitchen, adding that even their chips have to be multigrain.
The seniors have come to enjoy the healthy foods, although they can be resistant. Habiba says some weren’t interested in eating the salads, but now they’re so used to it, they’ll ask for salad even when it’s not on the menu.
Community Kitchens are held every Monday and Wednesday.
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