Don’t call it a soup kitchen

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - CLASSIFIEDS - RICHARD MCDON­ALD

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.

RICKY WIL­SON/STUFF

Richard McDon­ald says John’s Kitchen is ‘‘pretty unique’’ in New Zealand.

STUFF

The John’s Kitchen Christ­mas break­fast.

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