Free lunches feature yummy fare and cooking tips

Agnes Seitz just can’t stop cooking. And these days, the former Cranberry Bistro owner is serving up her decadent delicacies for free.

Agnes Seitz just can’t stop cooking.

And these days, the former Cranberry Bistro owner is serving up her decadent delicacies for free.

But only to women.

Every Wednesday, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre serves healthy fare to women who walk in off the street.

“It works two ways,” said Seitz, the centre’s advocate.

“It offers women who stop by something warm and it gets women involved.

“It doubles as a soup kitchen and a community kitchen,” she said, stirring a steaming pot of homemade beef barley soup.

“The idea of the community kitchen is to get women coming here and cooking together.”

Wednesday morning marked the centre’s third free lunch and it was surprisingly quiet.

A plate of whole-wheat cranberry scones sat on the table, and the room smelled of baking bread.

“It’s about healthy cooking,” said Seitz, checking her whole-wheat buns.

The program teaches women how to plan, budget and still eat healthy food, she said.

“And it’s also about social well-being.”

Many of the women who enjoy the lunches are from troubled or violent backgrounds, said Seitz.

“And cooking together creates a relaxing avenue.

“When you talk about food, you don’t have to put all your troubles on the table right away.”

Every week, Seitz dishes out Cranberry Bistro favorites, including her Greek moussaka, samosas and Egyptian lentil soup.

And she’s willing to share these recipes with any women who want to come cook.

She might even share her curried roti recipe.

“It’s open to everybody,” said Seitz.

 “Not just if you don’t have money for food.”

And it’s important for women who have experienced trauma and violence to have a safe place, she added.

Women can shower at the centre, use the computer, do laundry, use the library or just hang out.

They can also use the community kitchen any day of the week, but Wednesday is the only time Seitz will be cooking.

“Women who are living in hotel rooms can come here and cook,” she said.

The centre hasn’t received additional funding for its free-lunch program and is hoping to get food donations from local grocers.

“We just sent out the letters this week,” said Seitz, who could use everything from veggies and fruit to dried goods and bread.

“Whatever we get, we’ll make it work,” she said.

Eventually Seitz hopes a core group of women will start running the program on their own.

“This basic group could keep it going,” she said.

“And a program co-ordinator could be in charge of donations and other details.”

Already, several women who attended the luncheons have started cooking at the centre.

“They took over, then did all the cleaning and volunteered to helped cook the anti-poverty Christmas dinner,” said Seitz.

So far, between five and 10 women have been coming for the lunch. And Seitz hopes these numbers will grow.

“I want to let women in the communities know about it too,” she said.

“So if they come to Whitehorse to do some shopping and bureaucratic stuff, they can stop in with their kids and have lunch.”

Seitz always tries to send leftovers home with the women, so they can have another meal. And she’s discussing the possibility of getting women together and ordering bulk food supplies at a lower cost.

Some community kitchens order bulk food, are attached to food banks and even cultivate gardens, she said.

The lunches are held every Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

And the cranberry scones are delicious.

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