Hippocrates’ well-worn platitude “Let food be thy medicine” speaks to the philosophy behind a kitchen makeover at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.
Remember when sitting down for a home-cooked meal was an important family ritual? The Royal’s kitchen has long embodied the idea that good meals bring people together. With the aid of staff, participants of the program plan and cook meals for one another.
And yet “It’s more than a place to prepare and eat meals,” says Kieran Menard, a former patient who now volunteers at The Royal. He says it’s a welcoming place where families can visit a loved one undergoing treatment, as well as an alcove for patients to talk freely without the emotional weight that therapy often entails.
It has also played a crucial role in preparing residents for independent living.
“For a mentally ill individual, daily activities can become difficult,” says Melanie Taylor, an occupational therapist at The Royal. Whether by aiding in the development of social skills and team-building, garnering work experience, or supporting a hobby, the kitchen is a positive, motivating place.“The goal for clients is to comfortably graduate into independent living,” Taylor adds.
Despite its popularity among patients and staff and its usefulness in the healing process, the kitchen had long lacked sufficient counter coverage and storage, relying on a single oven and old cookware. Proceedings were cramped but resolute — they worked with what they had.
The reinvention came courtesy of Astro Design. Wanting to give back to the community, the company raised enough money to cover the cost of renovation through a 20th anniversary dinner in 2017; additional funds funnelled into the kitchen’s programs.
The space now reflects the enthusiasm of its proceedings, the sleek design featuring walls of triangular tilework with tasteful pink accents. More importantly, it features larger counter space made from durable materials, more appliances, double sinks, and discreet fridges. In the end, it allows for twice as many cooks in the kitchen.