Perceived impact of community kitchens on the food security of Syrian refugees and kitchen workers in Lebanon: Qualitative evidence in a displacement context
Public Library of Science (PLoS) -- PLOS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0210814

Community kitchens (CKs) have been recommended as public health strategies with social and nutritional health benefits for low-income participants and their families in different settings. The benefit of CKs in improving the food security status of participants in the context of conflict and displacement is less conclusive. This study aimed to qualitatively explore the impact of CKs on the food security status of community kitchen workers (CWs) and Syrian refugee (SR) families in Lebanon. An exploratory qualitative descriptive approach was adopted. Focus group discussions were conducted with 15 CWs and 49 SRs, and transcripts were analyzed thematically. Emerging themes included: motivation to join the CKs (CWs only), perception towards CKs, impact of these CKs, and their sustainability (both groups). Motivating factors for CWs included financial, internal and societal drivers, and the favorable type of work in kitchens. The perception towards CKs was overall positive among CWs and SR beneficiaries. Both groups reported the positive impact of CKs on their food security and financial status, which in turn affected positively their psychological health. At the social level, CWs indicated that the kitchen’s friendly atmosphere increased social cohesion and companionship between Syrians and Lebanese within the kitchen. In addition, CWs reported increased sense of empathy towards SRs benefiting from the CK services. According to study participants, the positive impact of the CKs was almost completely reversed when their operation and services were interrupted for two months. Both CWs and SRs identified facilitators and barriers that can affect the sustainability of the kitchens, including financial and entrepreneurial skills. In conclusion, findings from this study highlight that CKs can be promising programs to improve the food security and livelihoods of participants, while also increasing social cohesion and integration of refugees within host communities in protracted crisis contexts.