A new joint program between OneSky Community Resources and the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society is helping to get families cooking up healthy meals.
The Caring Kitchen program had its trial run in February with just five families and is now providing 11 families throughout the Similkameen Valley with meal kits and recipes every week.
“A lot of our families are young families or don’t have experience cooking, so they are learning these things,” said Natalie Schwarz, the OneSky family engagement worker running the program. “They are learning new foods, new techniques, and some people are so excited they just ask us to send the recipes.
For families that have newborns, or are otherwise unable to leave their homes to pick up the kits, Schwarz also delivers the kits and recipes.
Each of the families currently in the program has at least one child of up to age six or is expecting a new child to arrive. One of the program’s goals is to make it easier for these families to be able to provide a meal without the parents having to stress about it.
“It’s very important, as someone with small children, it’s hectic,” said Schwarz. “It’s easy to fall into unhealthy choices or more expensive choices like eating out. I think that these families know, that at least for one or two days a week the meals they don’t have to think about what they’re going to cook or have to owe anybody for what they’re going to eat.”
The feedback on the program so far has been exceptional, and word has spread through the communities with families returning after not attending for a while.
Another major benefit of the program is how it has allowed Schwarz to reconnect with families who have previous relationships with community programs but haven’t been able to stay in contact due to the pandemic, as well as to build connections with new families.
“Since I started working in Keremeos it has been the best way to connect with families,” said Schwarz. “I get to see everyone’s faces every week, to catch up, see how the little ones are doing, seeing them grow up, it’s just fantastic. It’s the highlight of my week.”
The recipes are also posted online on social media each week, and for the last week of March, the special meal is a favourite one of Schwarz.
“The recipe is for homemade chicken shawarma,” said Schwarz. “It’s a great recipe and I hope everyone enjoys it. My husband won the Iron Chef competition in our town in Alberta three years in a row, and this was our first winning recipe.”
The program was made possible through funding from Second Harvest to support improving food security in the community. That funding has allowed for the purchase of a fridge to store the groceries for the meal kits.
The hope is to keep the program going through the summer and to expand it for a couple more families as well.
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