Photo credit: Grouping of collective kitchens in Gatineau
Its two campuses had been abandoned by students during the pandemic, and the University of Quebec at Outaouais (UQO) had difficulty finding a private entrepreneur for its food supply. At the same time, the Regroupement des cuisines collectives de Gatineau (RCCG) was looking for a suitably equipped room. Until then, he has multiplied the arrangements to occupy different premises in the city and partner kitchens, depending on availability. The two actors then teamed up to create a nurturing campus on Sept. 12 — food and educational offerings — after a week of open doors offering free tastings.
“Access to healthy food at affordable prices is very important, especially in the current inflationary context,” UQO Principal Murielle Laberge said in a press release. This partnership will also promote the involvement of members of our university community in collective kitchen projects by and for our local community. »
Located in the cafeteria of the Lucien-Brault Pavilion in Gatineau, the new space combines food autonomy, inclusion and environmental protection. On site, the university community and the people of the district benefit from six food and educational facilities. Caf’Etcetera is a restaurant that serves almost exclusively vegetarian light meals, prepared after the arrival of unsold groceries and culinary inspiration from RCCG volunteers.
“For five years we have had a Snacks for All project for all children in participating schools, which takes us to two grocery stores in the region where we pick up the products every day of the week,” explains Josée Poirier Defoy, General Director of RCCG. Last year we reached almost 100 tons of food diverted from landfills. We don’t have dedicated money for the food campus, but we do have fruit and vegetables in industrial quantities and certain specialty products that allow us to refine our menu. »
About fifteen people have come to eat in the cafeteria every day since it opened; a steadily increasing number. Also knowing that the group is mandated not to compete with Moca Loca Café, which remained open at the university during the pandemic, offering drinks, sandwiches or even cakes.
At the same time, the community also benefits from self-service communal refrigerators on both campuses, the contents of which also come from unsold groceries, are free and available to all. Last year, more than 78,000 recipe portions were placed in community refrigerators.
“We have the sorting of the unsold. Then we invite the students to participate, because when we have set aside what we need for our activities, the volunteers who help us sort and make the transformation have first choice on what is left,” emphasizes the day-to-day manager. . She says that they have volunteers from all walks of life who come because they are bored, don’t want to cook for themselves alone, want to give back, learn new recipes or cope.
The project on collective kitchens against waste is a space that enables the start and support of collective kitchens – groups of people who transform unsold groceries and use them to cook food to take home.
Consolidate its activities
“Before, the UQO student association was a member of the group, and we tried year after year to keep groups moving, but it was difficult to find suitable places for large groups of students. students, so here it becomes possible! », rejoices Josée Poirier Defoy.
RCCG, which has four employees, offers quarterly economic cooking training that has been updated by nutritionists from Outaouais Integrated Health and Social Services Center. It also offers two culinary workshops per quarterly on various topics such as food preservation.
“I feel that we are becoming a victim of our profession because we have already started to get inquiries that could lead us to develop a catering service. The battle for us is always to find funding for our activities. »
RCCG is a non-profit organization that aims to develop and consolidate collective kitchens to help individuals living in the Outaouais who are in a situation of poverty or insecurity to eat adequately.
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