Don’t call it a soup kitchen
OPINION: People come into Crossroads all the time and tell me there is nothing like John’s Kitchen anywhere else in the country.
I don’t know if that is true or not, I’m simply not well travelled enough to verify the claim.
I know of a handful of places that serve a similar function but the fact remains that John’s Kitchen is pretty unique.
Although a common perception is that John’s Kitchen is a soup kitchen, it is better described as a community kitchen.
A place for anyone in the community to serve or be served by other members of the community, a place that has been a part of the Blenheim community for nearly 20 years.
Unlike a soup kitchen we aren’t just open for an hour or two to serve a bowl of soup and some bread. We open from 8am to 1.30pm daily and serve breakfast, morning tea and lunch as well as a community meal on Wednesday night at 5.30pm.
We do not charge for food, instead we accept donations with the understanding that while some people may be able to afford to pay for lunch, others cannot.
As a community kitchen with a charitable mission, we have decided to remain as an unregistered kitchen so that we can accept and utilise food donations coming from people’s home gardens, pantries and freezers, as well as home baking, jams, preserves and pickles.
Larger local organisations and businesses also support us by donating bread, frozen vegetables, dairy products, flour, butter and other essential food items. Our status also enables us to accept a variety of volunteers who have a desire to serve the community in some way but can’t find the opportunity to do so elsewhere.
The great thing about going to work everyday at Crossroads is that feeling of being a conduit of other people’s kindness. My job is basically to supervise and help other people give and receive to one another through the service of cooking and hospitality.
I get a lot of thanks from people I meet at work that I need to pass on to those in the wider community, those people in the background who are the ones making what we do possible.
So I would like to pass on the gratitude of those who have shared it with me, and thank all the individuals, organisations and businesses who each contribute in some way by donating their time, money and surplus food to what they believe is a worthy cause.
The cause of keeping our community well fed and well connected with one another is indeed worthy.
It promotes social interaction across social divides, nourishes peoples bodies and minds, and helps contribute to building a resilient and compassionate society.
I was contacted recently by a wine company rep, who discussed with me the possibility of them contributing in various ways. It got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to see a dozen or so locally based companies come together and help us cover our basic operating costs?
These are currently covered by funding grants from various national agencies, but there is something really appealing about the thought of being 100 per cent supported locally, and sharing our stories of support with the local community rather than sharing statistics with somebody sitting in an office reading a funding grant application.
Then when somebody walks into John’s Kitchen and tells me that there is nothing else like it in New Zealand, I could smile and give them another good reason why John’s Kitchen is pretty unique to Blenheim.
Richard McDonald is head chef at John’s Kitchen, a community kitchen in Blenheim.
Richard McDonald says John’s Kitchen is ‘‘pretty unique’’ in New Zealand.
The John’s Kitchen Christmas breakfast.