Imagine this; a small group of 10-15 people from different ethnic minorities cramped in a room with a built in kitchen. These people are cooking together, sharing their food, and learning how to make foods from the Canadian cuisine. Yet, half of these people are not fluent in English and cannot communicate their ideas in a clear manner. This is my perception of a community kitchen. So if someone asked me if I were to provide funding or donations to the establishment of such a place, I would out rightly say “No!”.
You may wonder why I hold such cynical views about a community effort that is clearly working towards creating a more accepting environment for newly immigrated individuals in which they can feel empowered and socially supported. These efforts are honorably trying to target the determinant of health of “Social Environments” which has a huge role in allowing new immigrants to become integrated into the Canadian culture and be able to navigate through the health care system in a well manner. Hence, as a future health practitioner, I should be warmer to the idea of community health kitchens.
However, I am not saying that they should not exist; I just do not “believe” in them per se. As an immigrant myself, I initially felt that holding on to my culture from back home assisted me in having a gradual transition into the Canadian society. Although this transition was slow, I was content with the fact that I had held on to certain parts of my ethnic norms for some time before trading them in for Canadian ones. One of the major components of this ethnicity was food. Food tied me and my family to our country of origin and all of our memories from it. Yes, we were ecstatic that we were in Canada and part of a much safer and developed society, but the main reason we came here was due to the acceptance of multiculturism in Canada, not for assimilation into unfamiliar cultures and their ethnicities.
Perhaps my reasons for being skeptical about the effectiveness of such programs is due to the fact that we as Canadians are still struggling to combat health disparities, poverty, and the problem of accessibility to healthcare resources. Hence it just makes more sense to me that funding goes into health promotion and public health programs which are more needed. Then again, need depends on the individual. Maybe some people enjoy such programs and find that it helps them integrate and adjust into the Canadian society more efficiently. Yes, this may be true, but are these small scale community kitchens ensuring that their participants are having adequate access to ingredients? Do they even having the means to purchase food? What about language skills which will improve their access to all services in general? One of the participant who shared his ethnic cuisine with the group, required the help of a family member just to communicate a preference of food. This made me think, would it not be better to fund large scale programs that are targeted to the overall improvement of immigrants adjustment into the society? Such programs could include kitchens like these but also provide people with workshops that helps improve their overall lifestyle (i.e. helping them overcome language barriers).
I do understand that every step towards better health counts but I still stand by my point that if funding must be provided to community health programs, it should be reserved for those which are multifunctional, because frankly, community kitchens alone seem like a sad missing puzzle piece which a kid had thrown under the sofa.