Community Kitchen Going Strong Amid Pandemic

Community Kitchen

A community kitchen is run by a group of volunteers, usually in a facility such as churches, schools, or community centers. They meet regularly to cater the Community with free of cost or affordable meals. Let’s see how a visionary community member kept the spirit going amid Pandemic.

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A look inside the Community Kitchen

How a Community Member Faced all Odds Amid Pandemic?

To get the first-hand experience of the community kitchen, it was a privilege to get in touch with Maliha Khan Ahmed, founder of  MMM, Milton Muslim Moms(Registered Not for Profit Organization). She has been successfully running a community kitchen since a time in the Milton Community. The details she shared and the passion for serving the Community with her group of volunteers were very warming.

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Volunteers of MMM cooking food in bulk at a facility

Maliha’s story of her immense contribution to the Milton Community speaks volumes. It also provides a detailed step-by-step guide for anyone yearning to feed the deserving members of the Community. 

When Maliha came up with the idea of a community kitchen, she was oblivious of the fact that there are so many homeless and hungry individuals around her. True, she has been actively engaged in distributing meals to homeless people in downtown Toronto for five years. But it was only when she attended the Halton Poverty Roundtable that she discovered poverty facts in Halton. More that 13,500 children live in low income households in Halton alone. I was startled to learn that many of these children received meals only once a day.

Maliha rolled the idea with her team of volunteers to contribute towards hunger elimination. But the primary concern was ‘training.’ After all, cooking nutritious food in bulk and distributing it is no joke. 

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Harmony is the Key

A church in Milton opened its doors so she could volunteer and learn in the Church’s kitchen. As I was penning down Maliha’s contribution, I was in such awe of the religious harmony prevalent in the Community. The plan was sorted. Maliha would volunteer and be trained over the weekends, and the hall adjacent would serve as a dining hall for many including the elderly and international students.

But then the Pandemic struck and it could not be materialized as planned. 

The pandemic layoff and economic crisis in Canada resulted in one in seven Canadians suffer from food insecurity

This is a serious statistic, and Milton Neighborhood was no exception. The lockdown and strict measures to handle food meant Maliha’s mission was to be halted. However, in October 2020, she volunteered with campaign initiated by Melani Bastians to curb hunger through community kitchens. 

The Pandemic meant extreme scrutiny in hygiene and small groups working in a closed space. However, it did not deter Maliha’s and her volunteer spirits. Within six months, the MMM team under the supervision of Maliha were onboard too to start their community Kitchen. The collaboration works in a way that organizations request the Halal food to Maliha, and then MMM caters to their demand for food. 

Currently, Maliha and her team are using the kitchen facility of the Italian Cultural Centre of Milton. They ensure food supply for single moms, the elderly, and international students, amongst many others. They also supply cooked meals and vegetables to shelters and use the database maintained by MMM.

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Surplus vegetables that are not used in cooking are also distributed with food packaging

Hats Off to the Volunteers!

Big thanks to the volunteers for cooking meals ,distributing food, and providing regular grocery supplies for the bulk cooking. Sana Mir, an active volunteer ensures to be there for each run. This also includes Food for Life for providing fresh vegetables, Desi Mandi in Burlington, Pak Food Grocery, and community members who wholeheartedly fund the cause.

The packaging team meticulously pack, looking at covid formalities. The leftover vegetables are also packed and distributed along with the cooked food packs. The logistic team then ensures timely distribution, with one volunteer distributing 10 packages to various locations.

As no professional chefs are engaged in the process, how do they get the expertise to cook in bulk? A board member of MMM, Zainab Jafri has had experience in mass cooking, so even when she cannot contribute, she has taught the team tips and tricks for cooking at such a large scale. After all, practice makes perfect!

Maliha is an avid believer in training people for the community kitchen task, so nothing stops even when a member takes a break. The show should never stop. The mission is much greater, and so are Maliha’s strategies. 

It is interesting to note that Food Handling Licenses have been obtained to ensure safe and secure handling of food through out the process.

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Maliha Ahmed Khan, face behind the Community Kitchen of MMM

Maliha Khan can be reached on the Messenger of Milton Muslim Moms FaceBook page.

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