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Church donation helps Canadian food bank teach cooking skills and self-reliance

Volunteers prepare food in the new commercial kitchen of the Root Cellar Food and Wellness Hub in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, in February 2022. A donation from the Humanitarian Aid Fund of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped the food Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Two teaching kitchens are used for the Root Cellar’s Food First program in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. The food bank's directors say graduates rarely need to come back to the food bank. Pictured February 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The new commercial kitchen at the Root Cellar Food and Wellness Hub in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, pictured in February 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Root Cellar’s newly renovated home used to be a fire station in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. A donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped the food bank to build training kitchens and a commercial kitchen. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will help a newly rebuilt food bank in Medicine Hat, Alberta, not just provide food to those in need — the food bank will also now be able to teach cooking skills and offer self-sufficiency.

The money from the Church’s humanitarian aid fund paid for one commercial and two teaching kitchens in the Root Cellar Food and Wellness Hub, reported the Church’s Canada Newsroom.

“We are incredibly grateful that the Church believed in what we do here and supported our organization in such a big way,” said Melissa Mullis, marketing and events manager for the Root Cellar. “This donation gives us the ability to change the next generation and give them the skills necessary for long-term food sustainability.”

The teaching kitchens will be used in a 12-week course called Food First, teaching the basics of cooking with a goal toward sustainability and nutrition. 

And the new commercial kitchen is helping the food bank eliminate food waste, said Mullis. “Let’s say a farmer donates an entire pallet of tomatoes. Now we can process and preserve them in the kitchen for future distribution instead of them possibly going to waste.”

The commercial kitchen will also allow the Root Cellar to operate a café where other charitable organizations can host events. And staff and volunteers can now distribute 700 to 900 brown bag lunches to school children each day.

John Hughes, who is a JustServe specialist for the Medicine Hat Alberta Stake, told Canada Newsroom that the Church in Medicine Hat has always had a great relationship with the food bank. Missionaries and Church members volunteer and help with food collection drives. 

“The former executive director of the Root Cellar knew about the Church’s emphasis on building self-reliance and invited us on a tour of the community hub that they were building and to discuss opportunities for the Church to get involved,” said Hughes.

“At about this time, our JustServe working group was looking for opportunities to build community partnerships and was made aware that the Church would consider humanitarian grants to support local projects,” he explained. “As we learned more about the Root Cellar’s Food First program, we quickly realized that it lined up perfectly with the Church’s goal to foster self-reliance. We were incredibly impressed with it and grateful for the tremendous work being done by the Root Cellar in our community.”

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