Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Cooking up connections

[Cooking With Grandmas]
Chaplain Kate Johnson, third from left, started up the Cooking With Grandmas program to help teach students how to cook quick, easy, and affrordable meals and enlisted the support of Queen’s Women’s Association members, including, from left, Carol Sirman, Marion Bot, Leslie Comfort, Linda Kenney and Karen Nickel. (University Communications)

A new initiative through the Chaplain’s Office is teaching students how to get the most out of their food budget while also helping them connect with elders.

When Chaplain Kate Johnson (MDiv’06) started up a financial literacy program for students in 2014 it quickly became clear that many participants were struggling with their food budget.

“When we started the financial literacy program students were consistently telling me that one of the things that made it difficult for them to manage their money is that they spend a lot on food because they don’t know how to cook and they are eating out a lot,” Ms. Johnson says. “They also perceive that they don’t have time to cook and they are shopping at the most expensive grocery stores, buying ready-made foods.”

The obvious solution was to offer cooking classes but the question was who would be teaching. Ms. Johnson turned to the Queen’s Women’s Association (QWA), whose members were ready and willing.

The result – Cooking With Grandmas.

Through the program, small groups of students visit the QWA house at 144 Albert St. and a team of ‘grandmas’ teaches them how to prepare a few nutritious recipes made with basic and readily-available ingredients. Once the cooking is complete, everyone sits down for a meal and the students go home with some leftovers.

At the same time the students gain some socialization time with community elders, which has had a more positive effect than Ms. Johnson expected.

“Students walk in and you can see them relax, they feel at home and know they will be eating a home-cooked meal,” she says. “It’s more than physically nourishing, it’s spiritually nourishing as well. It’s financially sensible, nutritionally sensible, and then there is some good company and conversation.”

Many of the recipes are suited for batch cooking which allows the students to freeze and store the meals for later. If they are living with other students they can work together and share meals as well for a greater variety.

Vegetable crumble, yam casserole, meatloaf, bread pudding, rice primavera with zucchini and soups of all kinds, the recipes are easy, nutritious and reasonable.

“The research suggests that millennials prioritize nutrition,” Ms. Johnson says. “Cooking with Grandmas gives students the skills to emphasize nutrition in a way that works with student timetables and budgets.” 

The next event is March 1 at 5:30 pm and the menu will focus on chili – veggie and con Carne
To learn more about the program or to participate in Cooking With Grandmas, email the Chaplain’s Office or call 613-533-2186.