A Community Kitchen – For Seniors, By Seniors.

The Cause

A Community Kitchen - For Seniors, By Seniors.

During the pandemic, Kerby Centre created a food security program (including free meal deliveries) to meet the growing needs of isolated, vulnerable seniors in Calgary who were struggling to meet their most basic needs. This program was created as a short-term solution, but increasing demand shows that a long term, financially sustainable model is required to address issues related to food security and social isolation for seniors.

For Kerby’s Community Kitchen Project, we will use our existing commercial kitchen space, at Kerby Centre, and staff to pilot a program that will provide low-income seniors an opportunity to overcome food security challenges, mental and nutritional health challenges, and reduce social isolation. Seniors will be able to come to Kerby Centre to cook food in a communal environment where they will create meals for themselves and another low-income, housebound seniors.

The goals of the Kerby Community Kitchen Project are to:
- Improve food security for seniors in Calgary by providing ready access to healthy meals.
- Improve the nutritional and mental health of low-income seniors experiencing social isolation.
- Provide opportunities for community engagement through a “giving-back” program and volunteerism.

We will build interest and participation in this pilot project with low/subsidized costs, and transition to a paid program where the cost of meals will be offset by paid participation and/or corporate sponsorship.

Who Will it Benefit?

The program is open to seniors suffering from food insecurity throughout Calgary.

This pilot program will run for three, two month sessions for a total of six months. Each session will include six seniors who will attend once/week to prepare food in the Kerby Café kitchen as well as six seniors who will be delivered the prepared meals. During each weekly session the participants will produce approximately 100 portions of pre-planned meals, made from scratch.

Successful outcomes and learnings from the pilot project will help to demonstrate and inform a successful operating model that will allow for future opportunities for growth and connections outside of Kerby Centre clientele and into the greater community. Conversations have already started regarding potential external partnerships. The goal of Kerby Centre’s Community Kitchen is to ensure seniors in need throughout Calgary are able to participate.

This program is designed to improve participants’ mental health by providing opportunities to develop a social network - make new friends among peers who face similar struggles, and increase participants sense of personal value by sharing skills and life experiences and giving back to the community.
Mental health benefits will not be exclusive to those preparing the meals but also for the housebound seniors who will benefit from the social interaction with food delivery volunteers.

In addition, seniors in need of additional supports will be identified and helped through other Kerby Centre channels. Each participant will meet with one of our Seniors’ Service Advisors to ensure they are receiving the financial and social benefits to which they are entitled.