From the November 2008 Idaho Observer:

Christ Kitchen: Where giving is receiving

As the economy crashes around us and big bankers and corporations have their hundred thousand dollar European celebration vacations and parties with the "bail-out" money our elected officials gifted them with this holiday season, we are looking for ways to support local economies by purchasing gifts grown, created or manufactured locally by small businesses and artisans.

Christ Kitchen is one business that fits all these prerequisites.

With a motto of "a place of hope for women in poverty," their manager, Jan Martinez, drives her really old suburban around Spokane, Washington picking up women for work, buying hundreds of pounds of beans, and delivering products.

The ministry began when Martinez was working as a therapist at Christ Clinic. She treated women who seemed stuck in a cycle of poverty, addiction and isolation. She asked her patients if they’d like to do a Bible study with other women. They said yes, but no one came. Realizing that money is a great motivator she decided to combine the Bible study with work and pay the women to attend. So she put together a dried bean soup mix and paid the women minimum wage to package the mix while participating in a Bible study. That simple idea spawned this bustling nonprofit business.

This ministry enables women to learn to work, to become employable and eventually to support themselves and their families without reliance on government programs or destructive relationships. Kitchen manager Elena Johnson found Christ Kitchen when she got out of jail, looking for a little spending money to pay for cigarettes. Three years later she is drug-free and has a full-time job there. Another woman, Katherine Hert says she survived homelessness and lost a son 13 years ago. The Kitchen gave her a new life. "No one else would give me the opportunity to work," she says. The ladies say their women co-workers are like family.

Christ Kitchen’s mission statement is based on Resurrection, a central tenet of Christianity, meaning "a rising up" or "causing to stand." This ministry is founded upon the essential principles of Christ’s life and seeks to aid homeless, abused, poor, or disenfranchised women living in poverty in their rising up out of poverty, ultimately to stand on their own feet with the security of Christ. It seeks to enable women trapped in poverty to improve, renew, heal, and maintain spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health by revealing Christ and teaching the Gospel through group support and fellowship, and through job training by production of gift baskets containing a variety of dried food products including bean soups, cookie mixes, cocoa, brownie mixes, teas, colored popcorn, corn bread mixes, and their new items "living lentil" salad and "omega oatmeal."

The soup products contain locally grown beans and peas and dehydrated vegetables and herbs listed by name. Cornbread mixes are available in blue (not genetically modified) cornmeal or regular. Martinez states that beans are one of the oldest and most universally used of all the world’s foods. Often considered "peasant food," they have been a major food source throughout the world because they are inexpensive, nutritious, and delicious. This high protein, compact source of energy is stored easily and is relatively imperishable. Beans have recently been proclaimed by medical research as a near-perfect food, being an excellent source of dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, minuscule fat, cholesterol free, and full of vitamins and minerals. Corn bread, not only compliments bean soups, but eaten together creates a very low fat, high fiber protein desirable for hearty health and weight conscious meals.

Christ Kitchen offers a full line of gift baskets, soup, bread and beverage mixes for sale. The gift baskets are beautifully wrapped and tied with shiny bows. Eighty percent of its income goes to paying the workers and 100 percent of the proceeds from sales come back to the kitchen.

Christ Kitchen’s products can be found at their website at or by calling (509) 325-4343.