Kickin’ It in the Kitchen offers stabilization starting point
Every Tuesday, the men at CJHS’s Bedford House meet in the kitchen for a new cooking program developed by staff member Karen Crowther, called “Kickin’ It in the Kitchen.”
The purpose of the program is to give the residents an informal gathering place to develop life skills and relationships, learn how to work with others, celebrate their successes and reflect on their feelings in a positive way.
“We try to put stuff on the menu that’s inexpensive and easy enough for guys that have little-to-no experience with cooking,” Karen says. “Recipes that aren’t too time-consuming are great because a lot of them are working and don’t have a lot of free time.”
Karen built “Kickin’ It in the Kitchen” with addiction in mind due to the high percentage of residents who are battling substance use disorders. Creating new activities to focus on helps to reduce the likelihood that residents will fall back into the cycle of addiction and crime.
Although the program is voluntary, Jacob* has helped with the cooking every week since he arrived at Bedford House five months ago.
“My favourite thing to cook was lasagna because it was something I hadn’t learned before, and now I know how to do it,” Jacob says. “I’ve also learned how to work with another person and cook beside them.”
Jacob enjoys listening to his favourite Indigenous musicians while cooking (he recommends “Rumble” by Link Wray) and sharing this music with his fellow cookers. He also completed CJHS’s Learning Enhanced Employment Program (LEEP) and recently passed the test for Aboriginal Futures’ Trade Winds to Success program with flying colours. He’s excited to get trained as a welder or ironworker in the coming months.
Karen says that, as residents stabilize, their attendance at “Kickin’ It in the Kitchen” decreases — which is a good thing. “It means they’re becoming more comfortable in the community and moving towards more positive changes,” she says, adding that she has noticed that Jacob’s anxiety has improved immensely since his arrival.
When the cooking is finished and everyone is at the table with their meal, Karen goes around the group and asks everyone two questions: “What did you achieve this week? And what are you feeling right now?”
Patrick*, a Bedford resident since August, says this is his favourite part of the program. “I don’t speak to people much, so this gives me a chance to debrief,” he says. This week, Patrick is excited about and proud of a new song he wrote and sang himself.
After dinner, as everyone helps to clean up, Karen asks them what they want to learn how to cook next week.
Without missing a beat, Jacob says, “Shepherd’s pie!”
*Names changed to protect their privacy
- About Bedford House
Community-based residential facility that provide transitional housing and support for 32 men integrating back into society after spending time in prison.
- Acts as a ‘bridge’ from correctional institutions back into the community for adults on conditional release.
- 24/7 on-site staff with residents monitored through curfews and check-ins.
- Residents are provided with wrap-around supports that decrease the likelihood of reoffending – employment and educational programs, life skills, counselling, and more.
- Residents are referred by Correctional Services Canada.