To eat well, to make ends meet, and to break away from the support of food banks: these were the reasons the Ouellette sisters created the first collective kitchen groups.
These needs are still present in our communities, and collective kitchens are here to help.
It all started in 1982, in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood of Montreal. Jacynthe Ouellette invited her sister Sylvie to pool their money, ideas, and time to plan and cook nutritious, affordable meals for their family. Sometimes a neighbor would join them. The trio bought food together and met once a month to cook about 20 dishes for their families.
Counsellors at the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Family Centre (Carrefour familial Hochelaga-Maisonneuve) discovered the sisters’ project and were impressed by the concept. They asked Jacynthe Ouellete to introduce the idea to other women in the neighborhood. After a few meetings at the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Family Centre and the La Marie-Debout women’s centre, many women expressed their interest in launching a collective kitchen. It was the start of a fast-growing grassroots food initiative.
In 1990, more than 100 collective kitchen groups met to form the Quebec Collective Kitchens Association (or RRCQ, from the French name Regroupement des cuisines collectives du Quebec).
The association allowed collective kitchens to:
- represent an alternative to charity
- contribute to food security
- share their knowledge
- create a stronger shared voice to represent the movement
- respond to needs for training, development, centralisation, and support
- provide access to technical support, information exchange, and knowledge transfer
Kitchens by the numbers
The RCCQ promotes the creation and growth of collective kitchens, and facilitates cooperation between collective kitchens across Quebec.
The RCCQ is indispensable to the collective kitchen movement and a key player in food autonomy. To advance its mission, the RCCQ operates in four areas of intervention: membership and community life; financing collective kitchens and the RCCQ; building visibility; and advocating for food autonomy as a human right.
The RCCQ uses the principles of popular education to guide its stance, its actions, and its advocacy work.
The RCCQ promotes collective kitchens (and their activities and values) to the general public and government.
Its work is anchored in a collective approach to food security that empowers us to exercise our human right to food. We define this as the right to accessible, affordable, consistent, sustainable, and nutritionally sufficient food sources.
Our values in action
Resepct and dignity for all people
Collective kitchens welcome all people, without categorizing their experiences into a series of isolated issues. Our holistic approach encourages growth in all areas of life. Collective kitchens base their activities on human potential, not limitations. They value the strengths, experiences, knowledge and expertise of each individual.
Collective kitchens are networks for community action that identify collective solutions to individual needs. They work to transform living standards for individuals and their communities. Collective kitchens embody solidarity by building socioeconomic independence and nourishing our ability to cooperate.
Autonomy and Responsibility
Through respect for the history, choices, and voluntary implication of participants, collective kitchens help build egalitarian relationships. They promote the autonomy of the group and its participants.
Equity and social justice
Collective kitchens contribute to the fight for a more just and equitable society by:
- Promoting equal and equitable relations between individuals
- Denouncing violence and discrimination
- Demanding universal access to power and democratic processes
- Promoting equality between women and men
- Reaffirming the social, economic, and cultural role of the State as guardian of the well-being of Quebec society, including its responsibility for redistributing wealth
- Asserting solidarity and support for women, men, and children across the world who fight against poverty
- Recognizing and promoting the feminist vision that underpins our social project
Collective kitchens are places of democratic participation. They empower individuals to improve their lives and their social, emotional, economic, and cultural experiences. Participants in collective kitchens make decisions and are implicated in all aspects of community life: they’re not just customers or clients.
What is a collective kitchen?
A collective kitchen is a group of at least three people who pool their time, money, and skills to prepare affordable, healthy, delicious food. They follow the four steps of planning, purchasing, cooking, and evaluation together, and bring the food home with them when it’s done.
Collective kitchens are open to anyone who wants to cook their way to a better quality of life for themselves and their family, while also enjoying the opportunity to participate individually and collectively in their community. Thanks to the principles of popular education, being part of a collective kitchen is both enriching and enjoyable.
Why cook together?
- To get out of the house
- To meet people and socialize
- To build a support network
- To grow self esteem
- To support a good cause
- To promote autonomy and responsibility
- To build, grow, and share your knowledge
- To try out new ways of working
- To feed yourself with dignity
- To participate in the fight for food rights
More than a kitchen!
Collective kitchens are autonomous resources that take root in a community to respond to its daily needs. They allow participants to build a place for themselves, a network for shared learning and collective action.
This is the first step. The group meets and participants choose recipes, produce a shopping list, determine the number of portions to prepare and calculate their budget. This is also the time to share recipes, browse grocery flyers, and assign responsibilities for the purchasing and next steps.
Participants can buy ingredients individually or as a group, adapting their purchases to sales and the pantry staples available in the collective kitchen. However, we recommend shopping in teams of two: this makes it easier to manage any surprises that might arise.
Each participant brings their purchases and receipts so that the group can account for the cost of the meal. Then they meet to prepare the meals they’ve planned, which will be divided and brought home. While the food cooks, the participants clean, trade life stories, and exchange tips and tricks. This is also a great time to share news about other groups that the collective is in contact with.
After cooking, the group evaluates how their gathering went – including the recipes they made and the atmosphere of the group. This fourth step allows the group to evolve and grow together. It can be scheduled whenever is convenient for the participants.
Food autonomy, as defined and adopted by the annual general assembly of June 3, 2015 (translated): Out of respect for human beings, nature, and all the living beings in our environment, food autonomy is an individual and collective responsibility to ensure access to quality food and more responsable management of the food system. This can only be done through a popular education model.
Food autonomy is a process that empowers us all to exercise our right to eat.
The cornerstones of food autonomy are physical and economic access to food; the power of choice; respect; and shared action.
The RCCQ considers that other practices are also part of our progress toward food autonomy, such as buying clubs, community gardens, solidarity groceries, family farmer networks, etc.
Access to food
- Access to healthy foods in sufficient quantity
- Proximity to a variety of supply points
- Fair and reasonable prices
- Sufficient purchasing power to accommodate food preferences and personal dignity
- Individual and collective empowerment
- Demanding food rights for all
- Demanding appropriate laws and policies
- Getting involved in community, grassroots, and solidarity movements
A question of respect
- Of human beings
- Of nature and all living beings
- Of the environment
The power of choice
- Participating in decisions that concern our community
- Collectively being informed and empowered in food matters
Food is essential to life and access to it constitutes a fundamental human right. In this sense, the right to food autonomy should be part of the fight against poverty and social exclusion.