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Resources Manual

Kitchen confidential: How to start a community meals program

Are you looking to start up or improve an existing community meal program? Community meals play a vital role in many different groups and associations, from churches to social service organizations, bringing together diverse communities through the universal experience of enjoying good food and building better health and community.

This manual aims to guide and inspire chefs and program managers who are developing a Community Meal program (also known as a drop-in meal program). While every organization is unique — each addressing a different community and its particular needs, aspirations, and challenges — a set of overarching guidelines and best practices for Community Meal programs has emerged as the Community Food Centre model has evolved. This manual outlines those guidelines and best practices, and has been created to reflect the different experiences of three Community Chefs at The Stop Community Food Centre (Toronto, ON), The Table Community Food Centre (Perth, ON), The Local Community Food Centre (Stratford, ON), and NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre (Winnipeg, MB).


  • Introduction
  • The Community Chef: Roles and responsibilities
  • The Best-laid Plans: How to organize and get people to eat nutritious meals
  • Slow-rising Dough: How to make cheap meals
  • Pressure Cooker: How to work with volunteers
  • Starting from Scratch: Setting up and maintaining a kitchen
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