Chopped and Stewed: Downtown Eastside cooking classes empower participants

Photo from Community Kitchens.


When it comes to feeding ourselves, humans are not always efficient at obtaining the benefits that food offers. The world throws away half of the food produced, we alter and process food so that nutritional value is lost and our diets often consist of food that is preceded by the word junk.


But let’s assume for a second that we all had access to all the food we needed, and that food came to us in it’s natural, unprocessed form. Would we know what to do with it?


Part of the issue with food security is that many of us don’t have the kitchen skills that lead us from taking a raw yam to something we can eat. Sure, most of us know how to boil a pot of water or read a recipe, but knowing about and having access to kitchen equipment, understanding preservation techniques and cooking itself are all skills that take some learning and practicing to perfect.


Fortunately in Vancouver, there are many different classes offered for all levels of experience and income level. One of the more inspiring initiatives is the Downtown Eastside Community Kitchen Project (DECK). DECK recognizes that cultivating healthy relationships between people and food is empowering, and that it builds confidence and community.


DECK empowers residents of the Downtown Eastside with a method of “obtaining food in a self-directed and dignified manner.” The program finds spaces and provides equipment, groceries and knowledge to residents who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the tools needed to prepare a nutritious meal.


The program, ongoing since 2000, has had a very positive response rate from participants, with more than 90 per cent attesting that the program improved their access to food and helped participants gain self-confidence and build community connections.


Unobstructed access to food means a lot of things but ultimately it leads to a higher quality of life, whether that’s by beefing up one’s immune system, having fun experimenting with ingredients or having the opportunity to share a meal with friends.


Elecia Chrunik is an associate editor at Megaphone. She can be reached at


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