For the past 20 years, Cowichan Community Kitchens has been providing financial, health and cooking education to low-income residents across the Cowichan Valley. Now the non-profit group is looking to expand operations in Lake Cowichan, with plans for a second community kitchen in town already in motion.
The group currently runs three kitchens, as well as a portable cob oven, in the Cowichan Valley. The local kitchen is located in Centennial Hall in Lake Cowichan, with two other locations in Duncan and Cobble Hill. With the community kitchen in Honeymoon Bay Hall no longer running, Cowichan Community Kitchens is hoping they can operate another kitchen out of Centennial Hall.
“With the kitchen in Honeymoon Bay folded, there’s definitely a need for another location right now,” spokesperson Lori Iannidinardo said.
The new kitchen, Iannidinardo explained, would be run in partnership with Island Health, giving the program a boost in expertise.
Though Cowichan Community Kitchens is a not-for-profit group, they still pay their facilitators, which Iannidinardo said can make things challenging when donations are low. She said the group also receives donations from local farmers and fishermen, which has been incredibly helpful in reducing their cost of operation.
Cowichan Community Kitchens typically runs their program twice a month. Participants not only learn a number of low-cost recipes, but also learn how to budget and shop efficiently.
“In our Cobble Hill kitchen, people can make four meals for $3,” Iannidinardo said. “These are meals that you can freeze and take home. In Lake Cowichan, there aren’t as many options in terms of grocery stores, so the budget can vary.”
Cowichan Community Kitchens pays for half of the cost of all meals that are made as part of the program.
“I really think this is something we should be encouraging,” Iannidinardo said. “This is a program that teaches people — it empowers them. We’re not just handing out food, we’re passing on skills that can make a huge difference in someone’s health and save them money.”