New Community Kitchen Program at Edmonton’s Centre of Hope Celebrates First Graduating Class

male and female graduates stir in roasting pans
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Recently, The Salvation Army’s Edmonton Centre of Hope (ECOH) celebrated their first Community Kitchen graduating class, a new program aiming to empower participants to thrive in recovery with nutrition education. Five people completed the 12-week cooking and skills program through a partnership between ECOH’s Cornerstone Residence and Edmonton Temple, where the commercial kitchen is located.

This new initiative, made possible by an Innovation Grant through The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory, is for residents of our addictions recovery program – people having gone through treatment and are now in recovery adjusting to sober living. The students learn practical skills such as how to understand food labels, storing food safely, knife skills, smart shopping, and much more.

“It is wonderful to see, as the knowledge grows and the skills develop, so does the participant’s confidence,” said Lt-Colonel Brian Venables, divisional secretary for public relations in Alberta and Northern Territories division. “They begin to open up and become more courageous in trying new things while helping each other and themselves.”

At the start of the course, the students had varying levels of skills; some had never boiled water, while others had a little knowledge and experience. By the end of the program, not only did they learn new cooking skills and nutritional knowledge, but also presented a variety of wonderful dishes for friends, family, and staff at the celebration: quesadillas, tarts, cheesecake, chili, chowder, jalapeno corn bread, and green goddess salad – all amazingly good.

A surprising outcome was how they expressed their success, which wasn’t necessarily about their cooking. Vanessa Sim, assistant executive director for ECOH, said, “Comments the grads made were more along the lines of, ‘I was scared to try something new; I pushed myself out of my comfort zone; I’ve made friends; made me feel confident; I haven’t completed many things in my life before; built a community; gained confidence’ – there was very little talk from the participants around the actual food.”

Nutrition education is often overlooked in traditional recovery programming. As substance abuse can cause irregular eating and a poor diet, the Community Kitchen program is designed to empower participants to create a healthy food lifestyle for themselves and their families.

Another 12-week cohort of nine participants will start in the coming weeks.