By Christine Lariviere
Bread Basket Lac St. Louis held its community kitchen last Friday morning at Farley House in Pierrefonds. (Chronicle, Jacques Pharand)
Bread Basket Lac St. Louis is offering a series of community kitchens across the West Island aimed at teaching citizens in need how to cook healthy and economical meals in a friendly environment.
Affiliated with West Island Citizen Advocacy, Bread Basket Lac St. Louis has been operating since 2003 in response to a study of community needs that revealed an alarming amount of poverty in the West Island. “There is a misconception that the West Island is wealthy, but there are actually many pockets of poverty,” said Bread Basket co-ordinator Marla Newhook.
Bread Basket Lac St. Louis generally has four or five participants per kitchen. However, the first session this year, which took place last Friday at Farley House in Pierrefonds, had nine participants. “The kitchens are a social event for members,” Newhook said. “It’s a chance for many who are socially isolated to make friends and share information about resources.”
One participant, who wished to remain anonymous, also shared this perspective. “I’ve learned to be with people (by attending the kitchens). It’s my therapy,” he said. “We can’t live in poverty anymore, but in a way, I feel like a millionaire because of all the friends I’ve made here.”
The social aspect of the kitchens has generated many dedicated members. Another participant, who also wished to be anonymous, said, “I’ve been coming here for three years and I know everybody.”
Suffice to say, the organization has made a positive impact on the lives of many participants. The social aspect of the kitchens has also made an impression on the Bread Basket Lac St. Louis workers. Diane Veuhoff, who has worked for the organization for three years said, “The best part of working here is seeing the smiles on people’s faces.”
The Bread Basket Lac St. Louis communal kitchens have a dietician working with them and they provide participants with the recipe, cost and nutritional value of the meals they cook together. After a session, there are often leftovers people can bring home to enjoy. “It’s difficult to measure the success (of the kitchens),” Newhook said. “But if one person walks away with one piece of information, to me, that means success.”
However, organizations like Bread Basket Lac St. Louis are mired in a need for funding because there is a great demand for their services. “We ask a $2 participation fee, which goes to the cost of food,” Newhook said. “Funding is an important mandate.”
Meanwhile, Bread Basket Lac St. Louis will be officially recognized as its own entity as of April 1.
Participants experience firsthand the urgency for services. A participant, who didn’t want to be named, said, “What mental health needs are more services and more funds. And more people like (Newhook).”
Kitchen participants, who may be living in poverty or struggling with mental illness, often attend more than one cooking session because of the need for meals or social contact. “A lot of people will go to more than one kitchen. They get ideas for recipes they want to cook and bring them in,” Newhook said. “It’s fun to see their input. We eventually want to have participants play a more active role in organizing the kitchens, to really make it their own. That would be ideal.”
Upcoming community kitchens include: Feb. 4 at Beaconsfield United Church from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Feb. 6 at the Sarto-Desnoyers Centre in Dorval from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Feb. 16 at VWI from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Feb. 18 at St. Barnabas Church in Pierrefonds from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Feb. 20 at Ensemble from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Feb. 27 at St. John Fisher Church in Pointe Claire from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Participants are asked to register in advance, as space is limited.
For more information, call 514-694-5850.