BB4CK Test Kitchen


Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes to jazz up lunches for kids? Well, that’s what BB4CK’s Test Kitchen initiative is all about! We just wrapped up one session, and the next round kicks off on January 30. Join us in this conversation with Jody Reid-Latta, our Community Engagement Specialist at BB4CK, to learn more about it.


1. What is the Test Kitchen? Can you provide an overview of this initiative?

The Test Kitchen initiative focuses on testing and expanding sandwich options. I like to think about it as this creative space where we experiment and try new recipes that can be implemented in the BB4CK regular lunch menu. It all began with kids telling us that they’d like more food options; my colleagues Karin and Chandrie, both from the K-12 team, were excited to spice up school lunches, try new recipes, and give them to kids to hear what they say about them. If kids like it, it’s nutritious, and we can incorporate it into our menu; why not?

The initiative operates in four blocks, each lasting four weeks. The first session was run by BB4CK staff from November to December, and we are getting ready for the second one, which will start on January 30. It’s a great initiative that offers us so many valuable insights. It is also an excellent opportunity to work and learn from other team members to bring choice to the kids.


2. What is the primary goal or purpose of the Test Kitchen Program?

Definitely, it’s offering choice. We currently offer seven sandwich choices, but we aim to expand it to eight or nine by the end of the year. We know one of the biggest things related to food insecurity is dignity. And when you offer more options, it makes a difference for many students. Offering vegetarian options that taste like home, like comfort food, will suit many different children in the school systems from K to 12. Diversifying our choices in a city that is so diverse is very, very important.


Jody Reid-Latta, Community Engagement Specialist at BB4CK.

3. What types of recipes are typically experimented with in the Test Kitchen?

The focus right now is on vegetarian-based options that kids like. We are looking for delicious and nutritious recipes that can also be mass-produced. The Test Kitchen allows us to learn what is doable within our resources and time capacity. So, we have to look at different creations that can be easily slipped into the lineup we already have but also provide kids with comfort and familiarity, catering to other preferences and choices beyond pea butter and jam or cheese. We really want to be consistent and offer all sandwich types in all locations. So, if it’s good and doable in our community and main kitchens, we can offer that.


BB4CK Staff (from left to right) Samy Abdullah, Jody Reid-Latta and Twyla Mckinnon at a test kitchen session.

4. How does the initiative use feedback to improve its operations and outcomes?

Feedback is crucial within this initiative. So, the test kitchen was structured into four rounds so that we had time to reflect on what we had learned and build on that for the next session. The first test round was about figuring out the sandwiches’ minutiae and what we could do. For the next one, we want to send it out to schools and get their feedback. We would love to do all four quadrants of the city to make sure we get a good sample of the students and their opinions. This way, we can make informed decisions on whether we can go ahead or we need to change what we are offering. It also allows us to change and adapt to the community’s needs, providing something familiar. We are here to test it out.



5. Can you share some success stories or examples of the Test Kitchen Program’s positive impact?

This one day, Twyla, our School Connector, was delivering lunches, and she got into one of the schools with some sandwiches to put to the test. She bumped into one little latecomer student who was curious about what she was carrying. When Twyla told her about the test sandwiches, she was so excited and curious and immediately asked, “Can I have mine?”. We just ran the first round of tests and are still gathering that information, but her reaction was the cutest. Besides that, the feedback from the school front-end staff is that it has been very well received and that they loved getting sandwiches from the test kitchen.

Another thing that I consider a success was bringing the team together. I mean, Samy, our Data and Evaluation Coordinator, taught me so many ways to fold a pita. Everybody has so much to bring in. They’re excited about bringing new options.


6. What is the vision for the future of this program within BB4CK?

Once we add some new sandwiches, I would like to try different snacks, maybe vegetarian or gluten-free options. As the demand for lunches is growing and BB4CK is widening its operations, we, too, must offer more options.


7. How can individuals or organizations stay informed and participate in the Test Kitchen Program?

Certainly! As the initiative expands, we will need additional help. Anyone interested in getting involved with the Test Kitchen Program can monitor our volunteer opportunities and express their interest when they arise. Volunteers are always welcome in BB4Ck’s kitchen activities, and they can also connect with and support the community groups. And if anyone wants to contribute to this initiative’s success by offering specialized skills, reach out to me.

The best way to stay informed and get updates about Test Kitchen’s next steps is to stay tuned to our channels and social media. Follow us and stay tuned for test kitchen news! 


Chickpea salad was one of the recipes tested in the test kitchen.

If you have a special skill and want to contribute to the Test Kitchen initiative, feel free to contact Jody at jody.reid-latta@bb4ck.org.

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