A chapter ends, another begins
Newcomer Kitchen’s Weekly Pop-Ups are taking a breather.
For nearly 3 years, The Depanneur and Newcomer Kitchen have worked together to bring a simple idea to life: that by opening our kitchens to newcomers, we can create unique social and economic opportunities. What started as small gesture of hospitality blossomed into an innovative new model of facilitated entrepreneurship that has worked with more than 80 Syrian families, and paid out over $150,000 directly to these amazing women. A combination of luck, hard work and incredible community support has seen the seed of this idea flourish beyond anything we might have hoped.
In this time we have accomplished so many amazing things: over 10,000 meals served, a pop-up brunch, a luxurious gala, community dinners, corporate workshops, restaurant takeovers, cooking classes, teaching in schools, participating in the Luminato Festival, Terroir Symposium, Hot Docs, a national ad campaign, and more, and more still. The food prepared by these remarkable women has been served to everyone from our neighbours to the Mayor to the Prime Minister, to CEOs, philanthropists, dignitaries and scholars. The project has been covered by the local, national and international press; there is even a feature-length documentary of it all, sitting awaiting funds for editing. Even more exciting plans lay on the horizon: a social-enterprise catering company, team-building workshops, new collaborations national and international — but these take time and energy to realize.
Since its inception, Newcomer Kitchen has grown exponentially in scope, impact and complexity. But beyond our own grassroots support, our modest fundraising capacity and the help of a few key corporate sponsors, we have — for a slew of complex reasons — not yet received the kind of core funding needed to sustain the current program. Newcomer Kitchen has generated dignified and equitable income for its participants, and managed to just cover its expenses, but it does not earn nearly enough to support the enormous administrative effort needed to run it as an organization. This may be in part because we have been so busy actually doing things, so compelled and constrained by financial precarity, that we have not had the capacity to do the big-picture strategic work needed to evolve.
To fix this — to turn what started as a small, spontaneous act of welcome into a sustainable organization that can take this powerful, innovative idea out into the world — we need to regroup and refocus on the bigger picture. To do this, we need time, space and energy (and, of course, funding!).
The time has come for the weekly pop-ups at The Depanneur — over 120 to date — to take a rest, and for us to redirect that time and energy towards mapping out a broader plan for the future. How can we bring this idea to more newcomers, in more communities? How do we measure the profound impact this project has had, and how do we package up what we have learned so that others might benefit from it? The work to answer these questions requires a stable source of funding, and this is what we hope to focus on in the coming months.
Newcomer Kitchen continues to be an exciting, living prototype, a proof of concept that has been an incredible success by any measure. I know that it has touched the hearts of thousands of people, enriched the lives of an amazing group of newcomer women, and set a global example for what is possible. We will continue to work with and support the women of our Syrian community through our fledgling corporate catering and workshop programs, and we hope to make them a cornerstone of our future projects.
Newcomer Kitchen has taken on a life of its own, one that needs to be nourished so that it can truly flourish and realize its potential. It has afforded us 3 amazing years and countless unforgettable experiences. But even as a caterpillar has to stop eating to become a butterfly, so we too need to pause for a moment to begin the transformation to the next phase of our beautiful little experiment in kindness and hospitality.
To everyone who has helped us for so long and so far, and whose support will carry us into the future, thank you from the bottom of our hearts,
Everyone at Newcomer Kitchen