The Healthy Eating Eco-Kitchen at The Backyard Farm & Market is our latest example of an eco-kitchen. Eco-kitchens are a design element that we love to help people establish. They start as a simple pop-up kitchen and can grow in wonderful ways (how wonderful? read to the end!).
The Backyard’s eco-kitchen runs on farmers’ market days. Volunteers pick, prepare and serve food grown in the Backyard gardens or by the farmers who vend at the market. The program showcases what we can do with food waste (compost) and how we can serve food at community events with next to no waste (no disposables at market, community dishwashing, mindfulness).
The program’s main goals are to:
- Provide great healthy food education and tastes;
- Highlight what vendors are selling;
- Engage people, build community and have fun.
It also aims to demonstrate how events and programs can operate with less waste and to inspire others to innovate in attempting to produce less waste as well.
Healthy Food Education and Tastes
Each Saturday, the Healthy Eating Eco-Kitchen attracts people who are at the market to buy and learn about healthy, local food. People are invited to help make salads, soups, stir fries, teas, kimchi, pickles, smoothies, snacks, and much more using produce from farmers and the harvest from the gardens.
The program’s policy is to be inclusive, so all food is vegan, gluten free and nut free. Programmers talk about the recipes and how to integrate local ingredients and healthy eating into their lifestyle. Recently recipes are starting to be shared by social media and on the Healthy Eating Eco-Kitchen web page.
The program encourages people’s interest in the local produce vendors are growing and bringing to market. As people taste and learn how to prepare foods in new ways, they often buy the same produce from the vendors. Dollars spent with farm vendors circulates directly to small businesses and into the local economy.
Vendors are also supported to skip bringing disposable cups and dishes to market by the kitchen’s community dishwashing service.
The program is also great for sustaining and building volunteer and vendor morale on slow market days as the kitchen volunteers cheerfully provide food and drinks to keep people going as well as coming back.
The Healthy Eating Eco-Kitchen was developed and implemented by Hoffmann Hayes with volunteer support in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2016, the community took fuller responsibility for evaluating, tweaking and running the program and in 2017 the program was almost entirely community-run by a competent team of volunteers.
Over the past five years, this program has directly engaged ~2000 visitors and had ~2000 volunteer hours contributed to it. Visitors are invited to help pick food from the gardens. Core volunteers now include growers, holistic nutritionists, food educators and young leaders. The program has stabilized as a core offering of the Backyard that is loved and valued by the vendors, volunteers and the people coming to market to shop.
The community dishwashing initiative has been engaging in a variety of fun ways over the years. People find great joy in having the chance to wash their dish, instead of wasting a disposable one. It is these small moments that help people see how communities can be.
The program helps people experience and connect to the Backyard Farm & Market’s Vision, Mission and Values directly.
Program Roots Inspire
The Backyard Farm & Market’s program has roots in earlier Eco-Kitchen programs developed by Jane at the City of Toronto for the Children’s Garden Program in 1998. The original pop-up kitchen in High Park had no-waste community dish washing, served thousands of healthy meals with next to zero waste, and engaged thousands. The High Park Children’s Garden Eco-Kitchen is a now fully mature program, complete with a purpose-built straw bale kitchen and a medium scale composting system, able to handle up to a tonne of waste a year with volunteer help.
High Park Children’s Garden Eco-Kitchen
The program demonstrates how people can recycle organic kitchen materials into compost at home through worm and home compost systems. We further educate people about minimizing waste by showing them how to use the edible parts of food plants that are considered waste (e.g. using skins and vegetables ends for soup stock, carrot tops for pesto etc.). People also have many opportunities to learn about other ecological food system components, such as organic gardening and farmland preservation.
Find recipes from The Backyard Farm & Market Eco-Kitchen here.
Learn more about the High Park Children’s Garden here.