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Bright Ideas Ohio is a project of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. It highlights promising practices by Ohio nonprofits to encourage peer-to-peer learning and innovation.

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Community Kitchen

Through creative collaborations, the Community Kitchen is able to maintain its focused mission while meeting their clients’ myriad needs.  

Community Kitchen’s Partnerships Stretch Its Aid

KitchenThree years ago Community Kitchen reassessed their mission as a food kitchen. Like many nonprofits, they wanted to serve their clients thoroughly and so were experiencing “mission drift” as a result. “We had a clothing room for the clients that needed clothes, but it wasn’t doing very well because we didn’t have the resources to maintain it,” explains Carol Trowbridge Neubauer, Community Kitchen’s Executive Director. But instead of dropping the program altogether, they searched around the community for other groups that could fulfill that need. As a result, they found five other organizations nearby that were handing out clothes and established a working relationship with them to provide clothes to clients who needed them.

This partnership captures Community Kitchen’s model of service through collaboration: They identify what they do well, and they identify what their clients need, and then they find groups to fulfill those needs that fall outside of their mission. Through collaborations with other groups, Community Kitchen today is able to provide other services without sacrificing their commitment to providing high quality food services.

For instance, each week South East Mental Health Services brings a bus to the kitchen where they conduct medical screenings, provide counsel with social workers, and provide prescription medication assistance. Additionally, through its partnership with Columbus Health and Ohio State University, Community Kitchen helped 663 individuals in 2012 to get health screenings and referrals.

Through another partnership Community Kitchen has been able to ensure that their clients are attending GED classes through the Salvation Army. The local Salvation Army had difficulty retaining their students in the GED classes after lunch, since many of them went over to the Community Kitchen to eat but didn’t return. To help ensure that students attended the afternoon sessions, Community Kitchen began sending meals to the Salvation Army site so that the students could eat onsite and then return to class. Community Kitchen partners with Salvation Army in another way as well: welcoming students from the Army’s vocational training program into its kitchen to hone their cooking and customer service skills.

Additionally, Community Kitchen was able to expand its food service operations through collaboration. St. Dominic’s Parish in the Mount Vernon area of Columbus—a high crime and high poverty area—offered a parish house with a small kitchen to the organization if they’d provide lunch services. So this “satellite” of Community Kitchen began serving meals one day a week and now provides lunch meals five days a week. St. Dominic’s provides the facility and volunteers for clean up while Community Kitchen operates the program.

Through yet another partnership, this one with The Ohio Department of Education, Community Kitchen provides breakfast and lunch to many children throughout the summer when school is out.  They are the only local soup kitchen that directly targets children and families for meals and services.

Because of their focused mission and service through collaboration, Community Kitchen was able to serve 93,500 meals to an estimated 66,000 people in 2012 while linking their clients to mental health services, health and nutrition education, clothing and toiletry items, and assistance with accessing other social services.