Building the Kitchen Commons
We are growing a network of Community Kitchens in every neighborhood, where people of diverse ages and backgrounds learn from each other while making and sharing meals and nurturing community connections. Community Kitchens can be hosted by faith organizations, schools, community and senior centers, businesses and nonprofits. All kitchens start with a seed of desire to cook together and leaders willing to help make it grow. The role of Kitchen Commons is to be a resource for leaders that are starting and facilitating community kitchens. By supporting many different kinds of kitchens, we meet evolving needs in different communities.
We do this by:
- Connecting neighborhood kitchen leaders with resources such as kitchen directories, recipes, how-to guides and training.
- Creating opportunities to explore, celebrate and improve our local food system by cooking, networking and organizing together.
- Advocating for the development of well-utilized community kitchen spaces so that everyone has access to one in their neighborhood.
About “The Commons”
We understand “the commons” as shared, public resources that communities work together to manage responsibly, ensuring they are open on an equitable basis to all and that they will continue to be available for future generations. The “kitchen commons” includes physical community kitchens and their contents as well as the knowledge and skills of the groups that use them such as recipes and cultural food heritage. For more about the concept of the commons, check out these introductions from On the Commons.
A Dedicated Kitchen For Your Neighborhood
Close your eyes and imagine…. a central location that models everything you want from a shared kitchen for your neighborhood… that’s available 24/7 for neighbors and entrepreneurs to cook up a storm… that has room for a garden to create a direct link between food growing space and the kitchen space where we can figure out what to do with all that delicious produce… With your help, this vision is possible! While we envision the possibilities for dedicated kitchen space, Kitchen Commons collaborates with partners that have existing kitchens available for community use. Check out our current Partner Kitchens and register your own kitchen here.
Mission & Vision
Our mission is to foster community kitchens and leaders that bring people together to share food, resources and relationships.
We envision a movement of community kitchens built on the collaboration and creativity of local grassroots leaders coming together to challenge isolation, difficulty, and inequality in our current food system. We leverage our communal voice and share resources in order to feed ourselves and our neighbors. By supporting each other in our journeys as cooks and consumers, we work toward a Portland where healthy, local and justly produced food is valued on all levels—from the farm to the kitchen to the table. Ultimately, our vision is of communities connecting, cooking, celebrating, sharing and thriving in community kitchens and beyond.
Community Empowerment: Our actions and resources are led and informed by local communities. Each person and community has a valuable set of skills, knowledge and experiences. We utilize many forms of leadership, and work to lift up, celebrate, share and nurture these diverse gifts.
Social Justice: We create a welcoming environment where all people are treated fairly and with dignity, as we are all teachers and learners in the community kitchen. We work together for food justice and equitable communities through sharing, listening, celebration, collaboration, and taking time to build community and shift power to local voices.
Good Food: Good Food is healthy for our bodies, our communities, and our earth, from the seed to our stomachs. We practice good stewardship by supporting local farmers and businesses with sustainable production practices as much as possible. We cultivate awareness and growth around healthy eating and responsible purchasing while meeting each other where we are and respecting everyone’s choices and path. We believe healthy, sustainable, and justly produced food is for everyone and work to make this a reality.
In 2010, a few neighbors who had met by way of the Alberta Co-op Grocery in NE discovered a shared interest in community kitchens as a tool for addressing food security. On November 7th, they held a Community FEAST in partnership with Oregon Food Bank and Alberta Co-op where about 50 attendees from across the metro area shared a collaborative “stone soup” meal and discussed different models and goals for community kitchens. Topics included:
- Creating community kitchens in NE and beyond, starting with underutilized resources in neighborhood centers, congregations, and schools
- Organizing lending libraries for cooking and preserving equipment
- Microenterprise incubator kitchens to help low-income entrepreneurs establish food businesses and create community wealth
A smaller group met again and decided on two projects: an inventory of potential kitchen spaces and a resource guide to help groups interested in opening up their kitchens. By the end of 2011, the efforts of volunteers and interns resulted in a list of over 100 potential kitchens along with a draft Community Kitchen Resource Guide. In September 2011, Kitchen Commons incorporated as an Oregon nonprofit and became a project of the Charitable Partnership Fund.
Kitchen Commons received its first grant from the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods in January, 2012 to create two pilot community kitchens and publish a directory of NE kitchens. 2012 also featured an empanada-making class and sale, the first training for community kitchen leaders, and a community canning event processing over 300 pounds of donated tomatoes. In 2013, KC worked with two new partners to create a vision and work plan for their kitchens, and the St. Mike’s and Hollywood Community Kitchens were born. North Portland Neighborhood Services funded a cooking group and community kitchen outreach in and near New Columbia and St. Johns.
In 2014, KC adopted its first strategic plan, worked with PSU students to explore the concept of the “commons” as it relates to our work and with UP students on ideas for social enterprise, hosted a community partner roundtable and a vibrant summer celebration, received funding from the MRG Foundation to develop our understanding of food justice and our community organizing capacity, received independent 501c3 nonprofit status, and of course, continued cooking in community with neighbors and supporting kitchen leaders! In 2015, we look forward to further developing our community kitchen leadership training program in order to grow the network of active, successful kitchens fostering a culture of cooking.
Who We Are
Kitchen Commons has a single, part-time (15 hours/week) staff person and relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers, board members and interns. We’d love to connect with you and talk about how you can be part of building a culture of cooking in Portland! Learn more about involvement opportunities and submit an interest form here.
Jennifer Elting, Program Coordinator
Jennifer has enjoyed cooking all her life. As a young, low-income mother she experienced first-hand the challenges that many people face in accessing healthy food. Through directly experiencing the injustices of the food system while participating in the WIC program, she realized how food policies are crafted by people who haven’t been affected by these issues. Her passion for social justice and health equity led her to a degree in Community Health Education from PSU in 2009. Since then she has been a vocal advocate and volunteer for health equity and food security. Jennifer enjoys cooking and gardening with her three children and husband and became a Master Food Preserver in 2013.
Board Of Directors
Kitchen Commons board members have their aprons on as they work to grow and strengthen a young organization. KC is a grassroots membership nonprofit where members elect the board of directors for 1 to 3 year terms, and anyone is welcome to attend board meetings. Check out the agenda for the next meeting as well as past meeting minutes on our board page here. Learn about joining the board here.
Jocelyn Furbush, Co-Founder & Board Chair
Jocelyn has been passionately engaged with community kitchens, sustainable food systems, food justice, and community organizing for many years and has been thrilled to help Kitchen Commons get off the ground. Her experience includes co-founding the Food for Thought Cafe at PSU, coordinating a grassroots community food assessment, and a variety of roles with the Alberta Cooperative Grocery. She has a Masters in Public Administration focused in nonprofit management and a BA in Community Development. Jocelyn’s current interests include making her way through Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads, meeting her fellow Cully neighbors, and dreaming about an incubator for worker-owned cooperatives in Portland.
Michelle Woo, Treasurer
Michelle came to Portland from Southern California by way of Seattle where she completed her Masters in Public Administration, and soon after joined the Kitchen Commons team as the Education intern in 2013. Her work included supporting Trinity FGP Church’s “Seed to Supper” themed seasonal cooking group as well as the launch of Kitchen Commons’ partnership with Village Gardens. She has a background in nonprofits, community organizing and a variety of social justice and food justice efforts. Michelle is passionate about exploring world cuisines, recipes, and cooking techniques. She currently works in holistic health as a midwife, doula, and administrative support and is constantly looking for new ways to incorporate food into her life’s work.
Rachel Schweitzer, Secretary
Rachel first connected with KC through attending the September, 2012 training for people interested in starting community kitchens, along with two other people from her church, St. Michael’s Lutheran. Today, the St. Mike’s Community Kitchen is thriving with multiple monthly activities and more in the works. Rachel has a background in education, with a Master of Arts in Teaching (Early Childhood and Elementary) as well as a Master of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language. She is passionate about building supportive relationships within the community and is excited to learn and help others learn about how to make cooking healthy food an affordable and regular part of life. Rachel enjoys trying new recipes with her husband and son.
Anna Hipsman-Springer, Development Committee Chair
Anna comes to Kitchen Commons after more than 5 years in Detroit, where she supported small food businesses via a small non-profit collective. She views food access and food justice as one of the major indicators of a community’s health as well as an important factor in combating inequality in many forms. Anna moved to Portland to be near family and is excited to learn about Portland’s unique food landscape and social issues. She hopes her experiences in Detroit can positively contribute to all the good work that is happening. In her free time, she enjoys fishing and foraging, watching brainless television and making fermented foods (and drinks!)
Wendy Black, Program Committee Chair
Wendy joined Kitchen Commons as a volunteer in the summer of 2014. She immediately joined the Program Committee and has been working behind the scenes on a number of activities including grant writing and working on the kitchen group templates. She has a background in project management, technology, and leadership. Wendy is also an assistant coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Societies Team in Training and is a full-time manager at Daimler. Wendy enjoys inventing her own recipes and has a goal of someday creating a recipe that can be made into 5 different meals in a single week. She is passionate about preserving our food heritage and making cooking easier and more accessible for everyone.
Florence Jenkins, Co-Founder & Past Board Chair
Florence hosted the very first community kitchen event at her church, Trinity Full Gospel Pentecostal on November 7, 2010, setting the stage for community members to come together and leading to what is now Kitchen Commons. Flo helped to establish Kitchen Commons’ partnership with the Oregon Food Bank, launched the cooking group at Trinity Church, and is currently working to create a community garden led by teens from the congregation. She is the owner of Exquisite Indulgence Desserts and works for Standard Insurance, and she lives in Vancouver, WA with her son. Her cupcakes are to die for.
Alison Warren, Co-Founder & Past Secretary/Treasurer
Alison came to Portland from Seattle, bringing with her the model of cooking groups that she learned about from Community Kitchens Northwest and a commitment to helping community kitchens become a reality in her new home. She works as a Program Associate with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns where she helps faith communities create a just and sustainable food system. Originally from Saskatchewan, Alison lives in North Portland with her husband and daughter.
Maribel Gomez, Past Board Member
Maribel has several decades of experience as a community and labor organizer. She is a co-founder of the Rockwood Food Co-op & International Marketplace, a group organizing to bring healthy food and jobs to their underserved neighborhood in Gresham. She also serves as the Community Organizer for the Rockwood Food Opportunity Project which involves improving access to healthy food for mothers and children in various community settings including corner stores and preschools.. Maribel and her sister have been working to start their own food cart business from scratch in order to create self-sufficiency for their family, making Honduran tamales in the tradition of their indigenous grandmother.
Rell Ohlson, Past Board Chair
Rell joined KC as an intern in 2012, helping support two pilot community kitchens, developing the first training and handbook for kitchen leaders, and organizing a year-end celebration for participants where everyone received a recipe book she compiled. She is completing an MS in Leadership for Sustainability Education at PSU. Rell is passionate about social justice, education, art, building community, and using food as a way to connect with others. In 2013 as part of a collaboration between Kitchen Commons and the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Rell photographed the process of making (and eating!) a Tres Leches cake using a special recipe she makes her family.
Kala Mayer, RN
Kala attended her first community kitchen in the summer of 2008 through Community Kitchens NW in Seattle. Since then, she has served as a consultant and evaluator for community kitchens across the Pacific Northwest. She has a background in pediatric and public health nursing, a master’s degree in Public Health and a doctorate in Nursing Science. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Portland. Kala practices at the intersection of primary care and public health. Her pedagogy encourages a critical understanding of the social and economic determinants of food security and health. Kala partners in community-driven participatory action research and would describe herself as a Scholar-Advocate.
“KitchenShare NE offers lending library of kitchen appliances”,
“Kitchen Commons: Building Community One Bite at a Time”,
Our United Villages Legacy Story, February 2013
“Community Kitchens Offer Resources & Training”,
OPB Arts & Life 3/20/12,
“Portland Community Kitchens would let people share skills, resources, to make affordable food”,