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Collective kitchens in three Canadian cities : impacts on the lives of participants



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Collective kitchens are defined in a general way as groups of persons who meet to plan, shop for and cook meals, in large quantities. The purpose of this study was to explore the health promotion and food security experiences of collective kitchen members, during and away from collective kitchen meetings. The study used qualitative methods, including semi-participant observation and in-depth interviews to study collective kitchen groups. Between September 2000 and June 2002, a total of 21 collective kitchen groups in Saskatoon, Toronto and Montréal were sampled for maximum variation in terms of: type of participant; structure of the group belonged to; and support at the community and organizational level. Data was collected during prolonged observation throughout group planning and cooking sessions, and by conducting in-depth interviews with participants and group leaders. Additionally, data on the community, and the quality and quantity of organizational support provided to collective kitchen groups in each of the three cities, located in three different provinces, was collected through key informant interviews. Observations were recorded using field notes. Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Observation and interview data from each of the three cities were analyzed separately for dominant themes and then integrated together to establish patterns of collective impacts on the lives of participants. Results indicate the benefits of collective cooking are numerous. First and foremost they are social – support and reducing isolation are central themes to collective kitchen participation. Second they are educational – elements include healthy eating and other food-related skills and learning, as well as some political and social education. Third, for some groups, particularly those experiencing less severe food insecurity, collective kitchen participation might increase food security. Additional impacts of participation include some aspects of community development and personal empowerment. While this research discusses many positive impacts of collective kitchens, poverty and community disintegration will not be solved by community programming alone.



Community Kitchens, Collective Kitchens, Nutrition, Food Security, Health Promotion



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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