Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Washtenaw County
will soon launch a new commercial kitchen to accompany its freshly renovated food pantry at 2245 S. State St. in Ann Arbor.
Christine Taylor, JFS' director of access and nutritional services, says she sees the Shalom Commercial Kitchen "as something that can be used in so many different contexts, like for trainings or for community events." The kitchen is currently awaiting Washtenaw County Health Department approval.
The kitchen also opens new possibilities for JFS' recently renovated Nourish Nutrition Services Specialty Food Pantry, which is open to anyone in Washtenaw County with an emergency food need.
"We try to keep the process as simple as possible because we understand that asking for help can be really hard," Taylor says. "I want to continue to make it really simple and non-stigmatizing to get the help that you need and to make sure that the food that you get is food that you want to eat."
JFS goes out of its way to provide options for those with specific dietary needs, including kosher and halal options, vegan options, and options for those with gluten insensitivities.
The commercial kitchen will aid in that goal because it will allow Taylor to stretch limited resources even further. For example, many of the refugees JFS works with like to eat certain spices, she says. It would be cheaper and easier to buy the spices in bulk, then divide and re-package them. Until now, Taylor hasn’t been able to do that — but a commercial kitchen makes that possible.
Taylor also envisions the kitchen being used to aid in job placement for refugees.
"This is a great way to learn about what it's like to work in an American kitchen," she says. "... I want to see [the kitchen] be really utilized across all service lines that we have."
For more information about the services JFS offers, or to volunteer in the kitchen, visit JFS' website
Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.
Photos courtesy of JFS.
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