Colleen Beck is as much a participant in the Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre “Thrifty Kitchen” program as she is a leader.
The experienced recreation therapist shifted her professional focus from helping older adults in seniors’ homes to the Kids First Family Centre after returning to the workforce from maternity leave.
“For me, this job is great. I do what I love by facilitating programs, plus I get to take home a wealth of new knowledge for my own family,” says Beck.
Over a six-week period, course participants embark on a common sense culinary adventure that takes them through familiar—and for some, new food choices—as well as exposure to the latest information on food safety guidelines.
Menu items range from the mysterious “Sneaky Meatloaf” to the familiar – lasagna, casseroles, soups and some unique food items.
Beck said the benefits for participants go beyond getting updated information on food safety or food labeling rules, though that’s also part of the process.
“Getting people together to cook serves many other purposes. It helps people make connections in our community. It helps them meet people if they are new to our community and, as we progress through the program, we see people becoming more confident cooks as well. Everyone learns something, regardless of their level of experience in the kitchen.”
Established in 2004, the program has evolved from monthly sessions to a very popular, registration-based series of six one-week classes. It’s free, and is open to all residents of Fort Macleod.
Beck said the success of this program will only be enhanced as the Kids First Family Centre moves into its new location, which features a 3,200 square foot kitchen with eight work spaces. The move will put an end to the group having to use a variety of church kitchens or facilities that might not be big enough to accommodate all those interested in participating.
“Our families come in all shapes and sizes, and we have programming that is already reaching a large number of people. We can now reach many more,” says Beck.
In addition to the culinary programs, the organization supports more than 15 regularly-scheduled programs that include parent engagement, parent education, and other food-related initiatives.
Centre staff also recently began a series of informal parent discussion groups at the community skating rink – going to people instead of making people come to them.
As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Community Foundation is proud to award a $50,000 grant to the project, the first of the Vital Community Grants.