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How to Run a Church Kitchen

How to Run a Church Kitchen

The kitchen of a church ministry is a busy place. There is food preparation, food storage, delivery, storage, and cleanup for various types of food — breakfast for church workers, lunches for church kids and volunteers, dinners for weekly events, and monthly firehouse suppers. One person can do all the cooking but even one person needs support staff doing pickup and delivery.

 Sometimes the term run-a-church-kitchen sounds mysterious because there are so many other things going on in our churches and work is provided by a group rather than an individual.

When it comes to running a church kitchen, there is one constant: change. Whether your membership totals are rising or falling, people at your church are getting married and divorced, and retiring — all of these changes mean a fluctuation in your church’s cooking needs. It is important that as you start out, you lay good foundation work so that you will be ready to meet the changing circumstances of tomorrow.

Set clear guidelines for cleanup and food storage

The first thing you need to do is set some ground rules, especially if your church has never had a kitchen before. You’ll need to decide how much, if any, money the church will spend on the kitchen, who will be in charge of buying supplies and who will be allowed to use the kitchen.

Once you’ve worked out those details, you need to come up with simple procedures for cleaning up after meals so that everything stays sanitary and no one gets sick.

Choose a kitchen coordinator and volunteers

Choose a kitchen coordinator and volunteers. If you don’t choose someone beforehand, expect confusion when the time comes to get everything set up. Your coordinator should have enough people that there are two or three workers at each food station at all times so no one has to work too hard during the event.

Make sure you have enough money for supplies. You may want to reserve some of the profits from your first meal so you can buy more supplies if needed.

Keep the kitchen clean, safe and organized

The best way to run a church kitchen is to keep it clean, safe and organized. It is important that all workers adhere to these rules so that everyone stays safe.

Safety tips

  1. Keep the floors dry
  2. Turn pot handles inward when cooking
  3. Avoid steam burns by opening lids away from you
  4. Never leave food unattended while cooking or baking
  5. Never let children cook unsupervised
  6. Unplug appliances when not in use
  7. Use rubber gloves when cleaning with chemicals during kitchen cleanup (including cleaning toilets and sinks in bathrooms) Cleanliness rules: 1) Clean up spills immediately, 2) Do not leave dirty dishes to soak or sit out on counters overnight (this promotes mold growth), 3) Store raw meat separately from cooked food; never cross-contaminate by preparing one type of food then touching another type without washing hands first, 4) Sanitize countertops after every use.

Purchase quality kitchenware and supplies

  • When you manage a church kitchen, you need to keep the budget in mind. With proper planning and organization, you can make sure that your church kitchen is able to cook everything it needs to for the congregation, while keeping costs down.
  • Find out what cooking equipment is already available in the church kitchen. Ask if there are any other items on the list of approved equipment purchases. Verify that all equipment needed for cooking is working properly, including gas lines and ventilation systems.
  • Purchase food supplies and ingredients necessary for the upcoming recipes or meals planned by the church. Find out if there are certain places where purchases should be made and how much money you can spend at one time without permission. You may need to purchase non-food items such as napkins, cups or plastic ware as well.
  • Recruit volunteers to help with food preparation and kitchen cleanup before, during and after cooking times. Find out how many people are needed in order to safely prepare meals in the allotted time frame so that no one gets burned or injured. Check with your pastor about scheduling volunteers for multiple duties if needed.
  • Visit your local health department office to get a copy of any guidelines regarding food preparation and storage for churches. Become familiar with the guidelines so that you know what health regulations need to be followed

Be aware of food allergies and intolerances

Church kitchens are often used to feed people, especially the hungry and homeless. They provide a valuable service in their community, but they also present unique food safety challenges. Food safety is critical in church kitchens because of the vulnerable populations they serve. If someone gets sick from food prepared by your church kitchen, it could cost them their life.

One of the most challenging – and dangerous – issues facing church kitchens is food allergies. If you’re running a church kitchen, it’s important to be as aware of food allergies and intolerances as possible. Here are a few steps you can take:

Before starting to cook, check whether anybody has any food allergies or intolerances. When you are deciding what food to buy and cook, bear in mind that some people may not be able to eat certain foods. Be sure to check what ingredients you are buying for the food.For example, if someone is allergic to nuts, do not buy anything with nuts in it or use a utensil that has been used with nuts without cleaning it first.

The church kitchen is a valuable resource that requires oversight to be managed well

  • Running a church kitchen requires planning, organization and attention to detail. Church kitchens are often used to prepare meals for church events, such as holiday dinners, or for the use of community groups and nonprofit organizations. As such, how the kitchen is run has an impact on the entire congregation and community.
  • Make a list of all the items in the kitchen cupboards. As you do so, make a “to buy” list of food items that need to be replenished. This will help you to keep track of what is available in the kitchen and what needs to be purchased.
  • Check expiration dates on all food items to see if they are still good or if they have gone bad. Make sure that all liquids are stored properly in their original containers. Do not store foods in unmarked containers; they may become contaminated or cause someone to become ill after consumption.
  • Check all cooking equipment and appliances, including stoves, ovens, refrigerators and freezers. Many electronic appliances have a tag that indicates when they were last inspected. If it has been many years since your last inspection, consider calling an appliance technician to inspect your equipment before it is used again.