Lake County News, California – The community kitchen project aims to feed homeless and vulnerable residents, build professional skills, and provide solutions to housing problems

Employees and supporters of the community kitchen project in the newly built community kitchen at the Silvera Community Center in Lakeport, California. Photo courtesy North Coast Opportunities.

LAKEPORT, California – A new collaborative venture seeks to feed people in need and connect them with resources for housing and employment.

“Everyone deserves access to delicious, nutritious food,” said Deanna Fernweh of the North Coast Opportunities Community Kitchen Project (CKP). “This project will feed our homeless neighbors, provide a variety of support services to those in need, and develop professional skills for cooks in training.”

The CKP is a project of North Coast Opportunities or NCO and is a collaboration between the City of Lakeport, the Lakeport Police Department and the Woodland Community College.

It aims to support Lakeport residents affected by homelessness or food insecurity by serving ready-to-eat meals and water twice a week.

Wanderlust takes advantage of the new commercial kitchen at the Silveria Community Center and is assisted by Chef Jerry Phillips in her mission to feed and support the hungry while offering culinary training.

“Feeding people is just the beginning,” added Wanderlust. “In partnership with Woodland Community College, we will be giving students cooking classes for college credits so they can expand their growing skills.”

Phillips, with over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, knows the local difficulties of hiring trained chefs.

“This project has it all – feeding people in need, developing college student culinary skills, providing on-the-job training for people who are recovering, and creating a recruitment pool for local restaurant owners,” he said.

The project began serving meals in late August, starting with the direct delivery of food to the homeless camp in Lakeport.

Using all biodegradable products, the residents of the camp are given ready-to-eat food by CKP employees, students and volunteers. Eventually, the project hopes to expand to a permanent location or a mobile deployment model.

Sample menu items include Roast Chicken and Grilled Vegetable Burritos, Braised Tri-Tip and Mashed Potatoes, Pulled Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches and Coleslaw, Roasted Lemonweed Chicken with Quinoa-Sauteed Vegetables, and more.

With a one-to-one relationship building approach, the goal is to offer additional support services such as:

“We can’t help people if we don’t take the time to get to know them and understand their needs first,” said Fernweh. “Eating is comfort. Eating creates trust. ”

In cooperation with the Red Cross, the CKP also supplied ready-made meals to the evacuees from Cache Fire who were staying in the evacuation shelters.

The CKP is funded by a few small grants, but is mainly dependent on contributions from the City of Lakeport and local donations.

“We are very excited to be working with NCO on this new project,” said Kevin Ingram, City Manager of Lakeport. “This is the first step in a larger plan to support and ultimately reduce the growing number of homeless people in Lakeport.”

With a focus on nutrition and sourcing local ingredients, the CKP plans to bring its menu to all Lake County residents at local events.

“Rest assured, the whole of Lake County can eat from our menu,” said Phillips. “We plan to act as food vendors at events and often rely on our students to cook and serve.”

While the project now serves vulnerable residents within the Lakeport city limits, the project hopes to expand to other parts of the county in the coming year.

“This project is about so much more than just food,” said Robyn Bera, director of community projects at NCO. “We have a pipeline of all-round services and a network of partners with the overarching goal of helping people overcome their barriers, develop professional skills and find employment, and ultimately secure permanent housing.”

CKP staff are currently looking for ways to expand this project into a sliding scale mobile restaurant that allows customers to simply “pay what they can” to promote equality and dignity for all in our community.

The success of this new project depends on the community. To volunteer, donate money, donate groceries, learn more, or get involved, please contact Deanna Fernweh at 707-998-8602 or visit the Facebook page for updates.

Donations are also accepted through our website at https://bit.ly/3Ae2OQ8.

The start of this project is largely down to current and generous supporters including the Lakeport Lions Club, Lakeport Kiwanis Club, Lakeport Rotary, Woodland Community College, and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

NCO is the Community Action Agency that oversees Counties Lake and Mendocino and parts of Counties Humboldt, Sonoma, Del Norte and Solano. NCO responds and adapts to community needs, including advocacy and responding to the homeless. More information is available at www.ncoinc.org.

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