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Building community through food

A virtual cooking class connects students with peers and community members during the pandemic.

Screenshot of the Cooking with Grammas virtual event
Gramma Helen Maclean and Reverend Wendy Luella Perkins taking part in the latest Cooking with Grammas virtual event.

Loneliness is a difficult challenge that many people might be experiencing in the midst of the global pandemic. In response, Faith and Spiritual Life, The Queen’s Women’s Association and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) have teamed up to move the popular “Cooking with Grammas” program online, giving students the opportunity to not only learn new recipes but also gain a sense of community.

During live virtual sessions, Grammas from the Queen’s Women’s Association guide students through healthy recipes for easy and affordable meals that everyone then enjoys together. From the comfort of their own kitchen, students can log onto this virtual cooking class and follow along, making their own delicious three-course meals and meeting a diverse community of peers.

“Life as a graduate student in the best of times can feel lonely, let alone during a pandemic,” says co-organizer from the SGPS and second-year PhD student Madison Danford (Kinesiology and Health Studies). “At a time when we are apart from our families, unable to see our own grammas, this event brings together that family feel many are missing. It is a time and space to bring a wide range of people together.”

Recipes use frozen vegetables and affordable ingredients, catering to a busy and often financially stressed student lifestyle.

“We know that food insecurity is experienced by a significant number of students,” says co-organizer Reverend Wendy Luella Perkins. “The staff of Faith and Spiritual Life have witnessed the power of eating and cooking together and how it bridges loneliness and hunger in a positive, non-stigmatizing way.”

Both students and Grammas are looking for new and safe ways to socialize in these turbulent times, and this event brings multiple generations together for nights of fun cooking, chatting, and eating.

“I am grateful and blessed to attend the Cooking with Grammas event. It was a lot of fun, refined my cooking skills, and I interacted with a lot of people,” says participant and third-year PhD student Derek Russell (Chemical Engineering).  

Faith and Spiritual Life transcribes the recipes and ingredients through the online platform’s chat function to help make sure students don’t miss a step.

“The program helps students and grammas feel less lonely,” says Gramma Helen MacLean. “Honestly, it’s a great activity for everyone involved.”

The next Cooking with Grammas is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21 at 5pm EST. Students can find more information and register on the SGPS website.

Faith and Spiritual Life is collaborating with several groups and communities on campus, including the Ban Righ Centre, to offer more online cooking experience for students. Visit Faith and Spiritual Life’s Facebook page for all events.