Roots Community Food Centre (Roots CFC) started the free Culture Kitchen program in 2019 after noticing that Syrian refugees who had just moved to Thunder Bay didn’t see their culture represented in the city. The program began with a focus on Syrian food but now also serves up Jordanian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Sudanese, and Kurdish cuisine. Culture Kitchen gives newcomers to Canada a place to share their cooking with the local community and teaches them the skills and knowledge they need to start a food business from home.
In this program, women learn how to develop and budget their own recipes for production. They also learn from local women who run successful food businesses who come in to teach them new recipes and share their knowledge. Culture Kitchen participants are certified as safe-food handlers, and they not only work toward the certification but also learn about legal requirements in the food industry and what customers expect.
Culture Kitchen is not only about food and business. It has become a safe place where women can meet new people and practice speaking English with other program members and with the Roots CFC staff. Along the way, Culture Kitchen has also become a social hub for newcomers to meet others and learn new things. Participants report feeling more involved in the Thunder Bay community and gaining confidence through cooking skills and personal learning as a result of their involvement in the program.