Developing literacy and happy stomachs

For three years the Community Kitchen in Smithers has been teaching people the fundamentals of cooking.

For three years the Community Kitchen, run under the Literacy Program of Smithers Community Services, has been teaching people the fundamentals of cooking.

Jo-Anne Nugent, who runs the program, said that the program really works to bridge different generations. Right now they have a group of about nine youth from the Bulkley Valley Learning Centre who participate in the program, along with some of the older crowd.

“It’s kind of neat to have the different generations together in the kitchen,” said Nugent.

The program runs out of the St. James Anglican Church behind Safeway and across the street from the Princess Garden, which had been a source of food for three years until now, as the garden is in the processing of finding a new home.

Before that the garden would actually supplement the food they used in their recipes.

Although people sometimes find it odd to consider it this way, she points out that this community kitchen is a literacy program.

“You have to organize, you have to read recipes, you have to do math to multiply or divide…you have to problem solve if you don’t have an ingredient,” said Nugent. “As a group working in the kitchen, that gives you more literacy skills.”

She said as people work together you star to see their strengths develop.

The kitchen started as a way to help people develop literacy while also developing practical skills.

“There’s a lot of people who have a hard time meeting basic needs,” said Nugent.

The cooking classes themselves are every other Tuesday, while the alternate weeks are more planning and literacy programs, like writing exercises.

Nugent said that the class’ writing will be a part of an eventual Cultivating Wisdom publication, filled with the writing of participants.

The course also strives to incorporate cultural foods. This year the class will be participating in catching Oolichan from the Skeena River.

They gather food from other sources as well. The Town of Smithers let the group pick crabapples from trees around town last year.

“The kitchen is about empowering people,” she said. “The overarching curriculum of the kitchen is literacy, but literacy as it’s embedded in food security, cooking and cultural relevance.”

She said this year they have about 19 students of the course, including the nine youth. Their numbers go up and down each year, depending on other courses that piggyback on the program.

The kitchen program is open to anybody, is free, and includes some benefits such as child care. Nugent said an Early Childhood Educator works at the kitchen as well.

If you want to know more about the program, call Nugent at Smithers Community Services at 250-847-9515.