New Community Kitchen Cooks up Innovative Programs

With Trust support, Nelson Community Food Centre has increased their capacity to provide access to healthy food in a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for people facing adversity.

4 minute read

Revamp at Nelson Community Food Centre better serves locals

The Nelson Community Food Centre (NCFC) has come alive once again with the mouth-watering aromas of simmering sauces and fresh-baked bread, to a soundtrack of veggie-chopping and friendly chatter. Their newly renovated kitchen is in a dedicated lower-hall space that is leased from Nelson United Church.

Partially funded by Columbia Basin Trust, the kitchen upgrade was the final piece of NCFC’s four-phase renovation of the church’s lower hall, where they’re the primary tenant. Their goal was to increase their capacity to provide access to healthy food in a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for people facing adversity. As one of Nelson’s primary food‐centred spaces open to the public, the aging kitchen’s revamp was vital in bringing it to current code, which included undergoing asbestos remediation, modernizing to ensure accessibility and enhancing energy efficiency.

“The older kitchen was a much-loved space where many wonderful events took place, but it wasn’t the most efficient in terms of flow — getting meals out or running cooking classes,” says NCFC’s Development Director Andrew Creighton. “We decided to renovate and bring it up to commercial standards and also make it more accessible to our diverse program participants.”

NCFC runs four barrier-free programs designed to support people facing adversity: the Good Food Bank, Food Skills, The Garden, and Harvest Rescue. Just as many others did, they experienced myriad disruptions because of the pandemic.

“Initially the kitchen renovation was supposed to happen directly on the heels of the first two phases in 2020, but it was bumped by two years and took much longer than anticipated,” explains Creighton.

In addition to supply chain woes caused by the global pandemic and flooding that halted the renovation, the project was further delayed due to rising labour and material costs. Despite snags in their timeline and budget, construction on the kitchen was in full swing by September 2022 and wrapped up in January 2023. Grant funds were used to purchase new equipment, including a ventless dishwasher, a 10-burner electric range, shelving, sinks, faucets and an island with an accessible component for those with mobility challenges. The NCFC is thrilled with the final result. They already put the rejuvenated space to use with a community dinner held in March 2023.

“It was great to host 75 people — a mix of program participants, donors, staff and volunteers — for a delicious meal,” shares Creighton. “Everybody sat together at long tables and it was a wonderful mashup of all kinds of different people who may not ordinarily connect, which is part of the magic of this community space.”

The transformed space is inspiring new program opportunities as Nelson’s population grows and evolves. After their partners at Community Food Centres Canada completed a survey a few months ago, they discovered a strong interest in more culturally-specific programs, such as themed dinners with help from those who want to share their culture’s recipes and traditions.

“Toward the end of June, we’re planning a community dinner that will be more culturally-focused,” says Creighton. “An Indian night or a Filipino night, for example, would be great. We’re seeing an evolution in our programming as more newcomers to Nelson are using our services. We’re hoping to have help in putting together a special dinner program that will be open to everybody.”

Innovative programs like this will continue to thrive with increased opportunities for volunteers, staff, and participants to contribute to local food production, processing and distribution now that the new kitchen is fully operational. The NCFC is gearing up for a bountiful spring/summer season with quarterly community dinners, a lush garden, a new round of food skills workshops for youth and so much more. To learn about these programs and events, visit NCFC’s website or call 250.354.1633.

“The new kitchen is an important tool in achieving our goals of creating a welcoming space for connections around good food,” says Creighton. “The Trust has been a bedrock of support in our community, and the entire Columbia Basin. With their help, and COVID in the rear-view mirror, we have what we need to run our four programs really well. Good news for our community!”

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