Bringing people together through food

Community kitchen hosts dinners to serve areas

Julia Battishill, News Editor

Seattle Pacific University’s Community Kitchen (CK) has a simple mission: to cook meals together, and then to eat dinner in the community. 

“One thing that I really enjoy every time we have kitchen night is seeing the joy on everyone’s face when we all are cooking,” Student Coordinator Taavi Moore said. 

From their founding in April 2011 to last month’s event, CK’s goal is to serve their community, especially those on a “limited food budget” as stated by their website, by hosting monthly dinners. They are dedicated to using locally sourced produce and engaging people with nutrition and food preparation. 

CK’s student volunteers handle the marketing, recruitment, recipe and menu creation, and more to assure that these goals are reached monthly. 

Moore’s role, she said, is to “oversee and make sure that everything is going smoothly” with CK’s monthly events and behind-the-scenes work.

Moore referred to the nights of their events as “kitchen nights.” After the food is cooked, everyone involved eats their finished meal together in community. 

She believes that food and cooking are capable of bringing communities together. Moore said that kitchen nights tend to bring in people who may otherwise have never met or interacted, but through making and eating a meal together, they have the chance to connect.

“People who [come] to the kitchen night come from all sorts of backgrounds, so it’s really cool to have people interact that you wouldn’t necessarily see interact,” Moore said. “Doing something together with people who normally wouldn’t be doing something together.”

In order to make that happen, CK’s student team is tasked with recruiting participants for their events from all over the area, hoping to serve their community with healthy meals.

Some participants are students, others are local food bank clients or reside in one of Seattle’s Housing Authority apartments, still others are simply interested Seattle residents. 

“It was fun making new dishes, trying new foods, and [being in] a relaxed, joyful environment!” wrote participant Beth Gill on the Community Kitchen’s Facebook wall after an event in June, 2018. 

CK’s dinners are comprised of recipes collected by members of the team who Moore referred to as “recipe leaders.” These members also make sure all participants understand how to prepare the dishes. 

 Often, the dinners are themed to the season. Last academic year, CK hosted a Dia de los Muertos dinner in November, an Italian dinner for an “Amore” theme in February and a “Farm Fresh Picnic,” as their blog called it, in May.

The kitchen’s recipe leaders choose about 7 to ten items per month, according to Moore, and on the night of the dinner, everyone comes together in their kitchen space to make the dishes. Two of the dishes are usually made with the intention of being sent home with the participants. 

On Oct. 16, they hosted a fully plant-based dinner entitled “Plentiful Plants.” Moore shared that the event was very successful, with many members of the community joining in. 

“Everything was plant-based and gluten-free, and we wanted to make sure we were utilizing seasonal produce,” Moore explained. Some dishes included wild rice with rainforest squash,  lasagna made with lentils and eggplant, and roasted root vegetables. 

A “full kitchen” of participants is typically comprised of around sixteen people, Moore said, not including the members of the Community Kitchen staff who attend. This month, all sixteen spots were filled and those participants were joined by an additional fifteen CK members. 

“It went really, really well. We all enjoyed all of the dishes and it was definitely a well-received kitchen because people are really open to more plant-based food,” Moore said. 

Moore believes in the power of food and cooking to bring people together. 

“For me, food is much more than just fuel and nutrition, but it’s enjoying the cooking process and bringing people together — bringing the community together,” Moore said.