Uniquely, First Nations Kitchen is a ministry led by indigenous people for indigenous people. FNK’s Ministry Team leads all aspects of the program on a volunteer-basis without compensation, though there are specific and agreed-upon roles and responsibilities for team members such as Program/Kitchen Director, Volunteer Coordinator and Fundraiser. In addition FNK enjoys volunteer support from 8 area Episcopal congregations. The engagement of the partner congregations has evolved as a model for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota which in recent years has collectively discerned a call to engage opportunities for mission in regional settings, combining efforts, gifts, and resources across congregational lines.
After two and a half years of ministry, it is now time for First Nations Kitchen to move from its start-up phase into its next chapter. The FNK Ministry Team has discerned several areas of the ministry’s life that it feels called to develop. A one-time UTO grant for capital improvements would provide the physical environment necessary to deepen the ministry and widen its circle of beneficiaries. Two specific areas for deepening are: 1) food production (urban community garden) and 2) deepening relationships with our parish partners and weekly guests (gathering and work space).
First Nations Kitchen is primarily a justice-focused, Gospel-based ministry. Its primary intent is to provide food to indigenous people who would not otherwise have access to high-quality, fresh organic food in an environment of radical hospitality and cultural empowerment. While FNK makes full use of its relationship with the Twin Cities Coop Partners (free organic vegetables, fruits, and dairy) it now desires to deepen its ministry by engaging its guests and volunteers in the production of its own food. To this end, in 2011 FNK will organize its first “rice camp” – by sending people from the cities to the White Earth reservation for traditional rituals of harvesting wild rice and a project to learn traditional techniques and ceremonial practices around buffalo butchering. Finally, FNK dreams of launching an urban community garden project to build raised beds for cultivating the “three sisters” – corn, beans, and squash – for use in weekly meals. But more than that, the garden would serve as a neighborhood gathering place, a chance to build deeper relationships with guests and volunteers, provide an opportunity for traditional harvest ceremonies, and bring indigenous people together to learn ancestral methods of growing their own food.
The FNK Ministry Team also wants to deepen and widen its program by investing in its relationships with guests and volunteers. The kitchen provides a unique opportunity to come together around common interests (mission, Gospel faithfulness, addressing real human need) across cultural differences that in other circumstances divide rather than unite. The team sees transformative potential in deepening their relationship with their parish partners and guests – providing opportunities to know one another better, regularly engage the practice of Gospel-Based Discipleship, and together confront and move beyond racism. There are countless opportunities to more deeply involve parish partners and guests beyond tasks associated with making a meal, such as building relationships with new volunteers, fundraising, tilling soil, tending the compost pile, distributing food city-wide. We want to move from simple task-allocation to a deep, real invitation to work together – ministry team, parish partners, guests — on all aspects of our mission work. We see the potential result of this harder relationship-building work and the bringing together of a more diverse collection of gifts and talents as nothing less than transformational to us all.