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The Kitchen Project
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The Project

Project Output Summary

Number of individuals served:

Since we don't count people who come to eat at the park, we have to calculate this in a round-about way. Our gross income from food sales in 2003 was $71,202.91. The things we sold were priced between 25 cents (slice of park-oven bread and butter) to $5.00 (Friday night supper), with most of the sales being at the lower end. If we assume an average of $2.50 spent per person, that means we served about 28,481 portions to an unspecified number of individuals. Since lots of people like the park and return more than once, if we assume 10 portions per individual, that would mean perhaps 2848 individuals ate food prepared at the park.

This number is not precise because
a) we let lots of kids work for food, i.e. if they didn't have money they could do 15 minutes of litter-picking and then they'd get whatever was cooking (so that wouldn't show up in our receipts) and
b) lots of people come and cook their own food using our ovens and our kitchen. Still, the receipts give some idea.

Hours of paid staff:

Our net income from food sales in 2003 was $30,980.71. Of that amount, $29,894.69 was used to pay additional staff wages, above what the parks department already allocates for park staff. If one assumes for simplicity's sake that all the extra money earned from food and spent on wages from June on was related to this FHA project, that would mean that about 1750 additional hours were paid for, all part-time. I do not know how I can express this in FTE's (Full-Time-Equivalents) but perhaps it will be obvious to the reader. Some of the workers were youth from the park, some were regular park workers whose hours were expanded, some were specialists contracted for a particular purpose relating to food.

Hours of people who came just to help:

negligible. Who would come only to help when they could eat too?

Hours of people who came to help and participate:

I'm afraid we don't count. The kitchen has won many additional friends for the park, and many people help as help is needed. These hours are a free gift that neighbours give one another; we don't get in between and count. Participation is very large, though, since park users are under the impression that they jointly own the park. So they seem to take pains to look after whatever goes on there.

Capital goods and services purchased:

Service contract with our contractor: $24,002. That included all materials including the gas cooktop. However, when we ran into our trouble with the inspectors and it seemed that we might have considerable additional costs, our contractor (who is also a park friend) reduced his bill.

Actual expenditures:

Contract with Nigel Dean Design: $21,500.00
Youth wages to help the contractor: $365.00

Appliances not in contract:

(dishwasher, washing machine, chest freezer, later on a second hand clothes dryer) $1639.85
Shelving, paint, and other related costs: $1530.97

public health modifications:

(fourth sink, moving dishwasher, wiring adaptations) $1359.75
Repairs and adaptations to donated appliances $748.60

Total goods and services purchased: $27,144.17

Our project budget was:

Food and Hunger Action Project: $20,000

G.H.Wood Foundation: $8000
Friends of the park: $2,923

Total: $30,923

This leaves $3778.77 for the stove hood/ fan/ducts. That won't pay for it (estimated cost: $4500 to $6500), but we have received almost $1000 in donations from rink users since the inspectors came, and the rest can come from food income.

Overall Project Outcome Summary

Increased access to safe, affordable, culturally appropriate food: Once again we will use the indicator of income: in 2002 our gross income from food in the park was $24,860.85. In 2003 that was increased to $71,202.91. In other words, this crude indicator of income suggests that food was three times as plentiful in the park this past year, when the kitchen was built, than the year before.

Safety: not one person reported food poisoning, and in terms of healthfulness, that increased as well (because much of the food was made with organic produce from our farmers market, right there in our handy kitchen - i.e. very fresh too)

Cheapness: our trademark before and now is cheap food. We were able to make cheap food even better.

Culturally appropriate: we made everything from organic hot dogs to enchiladas to curries to beet borscht. There are over 40 languages spoken in our neighbourhood and we made food from most of their countries.

Increased individual and community capacity to address food security: Cheap food does decrease the likelihood of hunger. But our new kitchen is really just in its infancy. We'll have to get back to you in a year or two, to see if this kitchen helped food security for people in trouble. It's going to be hard to measure, though, since so much of what food does in our park is foster situations that promote friendship. Friendship can lead to help in times of trouble, but that gift is often a secret.

Outcomes not originally anticipated: Since we are not a food bank, and we need to cover food costs (including wages), we charge for our food. Even though our food is very cheap, the kitchen made it so much easier to prepare the food, and we earned so much more, that we must now change our status. We must incorporate and get official non-profit status, and start reporting GST and all those things that we were able to avoid in the past. However, the additional paperwork is probably worth the trouble. For example, the additional staff hours we were able to pay meant that we could increase other activities in the park too. So we found out a kitchen can support a park, as well as supporting individuals that come to use it.

Such an outcome is important at a time when it seems that parks departments are sometimes too cash-strapped to care for our public resources properly.

Laws and Regulations:The other big thing we learned from building the kitchen is that laws and regulations pertaining to work sites like mines and construction sites are a really awkward fit for public space. We became somewhat familiar with the Occupational Health and Safety Act after the visit of the inspectors from Corporate Services. The inspectors' rigid application of industrial safety standards to a space that's not a production site but a neighbourhood commons, turned out to be excessive. But they sounded a helpful warning. If citizens want neighbourhood kitchens and communal food and the sociability that grows around a dinner table, we had better take a detailed look at the laws that might prevent that, and educate our legislators. Accordingly, our group has begun to look into laws pertaining to our public spaces, and we intend to share what we find out as widely as possible.

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