Local senior citizens and newcomers to Salmon Arm teamed up to cook new recipes and create a collaborative cookbook for a project aimed at bringing often isolated social groups together.
The Shuswap Immigrant Services Society is a non-profit funded by federal and provincial grants. In 2021 the society applied for federal New Horizons seniors program grant money. It was awarded the funding and Brianne Fester, community connections coordinator, helped decide where it should go.
The society has a lot of clients who are “senior citizens” – people over the age of 55, Fester explained. As seniors are often more isolated in their communities, Fester wanted to target that demographic and another group of people who can often find themselves lonely in a new city: immigrants. Fester said she wanted to find a unique way to unite senior clients, and seniors who are not affiliated with the society, with people of any age who are new to the Shuswap.
The solution is a cookbook, titled Sharing Food Across Generations and Cultures, made up of recipes from immigrants’ home countries, tried and tested by themselves and their senior partners.
“We wanted to focus on awareness and sharing. The book was a result of connecting a newcomer to our community and a senior resident, with the newcomer as a chef and having them partnered up with a senior partner,” Fester explained.
The seniors got to partake in a cooking class, free of charge and with all ingredient costs covered, and meet and bond with the chef they were going to work with to cook the new recipe. Anyone in the community that wanted to learn was also welcome at the First United Church where the lessons took place.
“It was so great to see people making those connections between the partners and to also have people in the community come meet others and learn about different cultures, sharing a meal together,” said Fester. “People were able to find similarities and ways to connect; food is a really great catalyst for that.”
Before the book was printed, the society soft launched some of the recipes at the Fifth Avenue Seniors Centre’s square dancing club. After the dance lessons, which senior clients and newcomers were invited to participate in, there was a spread of food from the cookbook’s collection along with coffee and the invite to socialize and get excited about the cooking class.
“Lots of the seniors hadn’t heard about the different cultures’ foods, so it was a really great way to gently open up peoples’ minds to all the multiculturalism we have here in Salmon Arm,” said Fester.
The recipes were collected from the chefs themselves and from partners the society has worked with on other food-related projects.
A copy of the book was given to every chef and senior who participated. Copies of the cookbook are available by donation at the Shuswap Immigrant Services Society office, 101-371 Hudson Ave. NE, Salmon Arm.