Wood Buffalo Food Bank prepares to open public teaching kitchen

food bank

By Wood Buffalo Food Bank

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank will soon offer basic cooking lessons to anyone who wants them out of the organization’s downtown location.
Construction is underway on a teaching kitchen that will host up to 15 people, including instructors. The setup will be simple and include countertops, sinks, ovens, dishwashers, slow cookers, and cooking tools and utensils.

“We’re setting up like it’s your home kitchen. We’re not teaching people how to be gourmet chefs, you go to school for that,” said Dan Edwards, executive director of the food bank.

“We’re trying to teach people how to cook in their own homes with tools that they’re going to have.”

Edwards hopes the kitchen will be ready by the spring. The food bank has already been running similar programs by renting space at the Golden Year’s Society. The program will also have a financial literacy portion teaching participants how to buy groceries on a budget. At the end of the program, graduates get a basic kitchen set with knives, pots and pans, and a slow cooker.

The program is considered an important part of the food bank’s fight against food insecurity. Some people may feel intimidated about learning how to cook from YouTube and want personal help.
It is also common for people to turn to the food bank and not know how to prepare the food they’re given. Candice Archer, the food bank’s program coordinator, said the organization was recently given spaghetti squash to give out with their produce. Some people had never prepared a meal with spaghetti squash before, so recipes were given out.

Not everyone is a food bank client

and the program is open to the public. Archer has taught participants how to make soups, stews, chilis and corn bread, borscht and butter chicken.

“It’s not just about cooking. These are life skills that some of the clients who are using the food bank might get themselves off from using the food bank with the tools we provide for them,” said food bank spokesperson Michelle Hand.

“We definitely want to bring in different groups. Now that we have this space, our options are unlimited as far as how many classes we have and how many times a week.”

The teaching kitchen comes at a crisis moment for food insecurity in the community and across Canada.

Recent data from Food Banks Canada found children were more than one-third of clients at the Wood Buffalo Food Bank during the 2021-22 fiscal year. During the same period, demand grew by 7.1 per cent from the 202-21 year.

The number of Albertans using food banks in 2021 rose by 73 per cent compared to 2019. This is higher than any other province or territory, and more than double the national rate of increase.