How comfortable do you feel cooking? If you feel a little nervous answering this question, you fit in with a sizable chunk of the American population. According to a publication in the Harvard Business Review, two decades of research has led to the conclusion that more Americans classify themselves as "haters of cooking" than ever before. And in a food environment where takeout and meal-delivery options are aplenty, there's not much pulling people back to the kitchen. 

That's where community kitchens come in. A community kitchen is an organization that runs out of any designated kitchen space, such as a church, school, workplace, or house, where a group of people can come together to cook on a regular basis. Members contribute to the cost of purchasing ingredients and decide on what to make together. Rather than selling the meals for profit, members of the community kitchen can take their meals home to their families or enjoy a meal with the rest of the participants. 

Some (but not all) community kitchens will prepare meals for fundraisers, charities, or events. This is a good way to build a sense of community among the group and give back to the surrounding area. Many community kitchens do both a charity-approach and a personal, family meal approach. 

Many people also use community kitchens as a place to grow their own small businesses. Food safety laws often prevent people from preparing foods for sale within their own homes; they require a licensed commissary (commercial) location for all preparation. Having a community kitchen in the area allows businesses to rent space, prepare food, and retail at locations like Farmers Markets without the exorbitant start-up costs of a privately-owned commercial kitchen, such as a restaurant. 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of community kitchens is the capacity for knowledge-sharing among members. Each person brings new techniques, ingredients, and culinary know-how to the kitchen and can build technical skills amongst the group. 

Want to start your own community kitchen? 

First, you'll need to find an adequate space to house your community kitchen. Non-commercial kitchens, such as churches, often have spaces that you can rent. The cost of the space will then lead you to decide how much each member must pay "in" to participate in the program. 

Next, you'll have to decide what you want to prepare as a community kitchen. How will you account for dietary preferences and restrictions? Then there comes the process of sourcing ingredients for your meals. Many community kitchens buy in bulk from stores like Costco or restaurant retailers to minimize individual costs. You can do the math for the cost of one meal and have members purchase "shares" for the amount of people in their household. 

How often will you meet? It's best to pick a day and time of the week when people are available to avoid conflicting schedules. Even meeting once a month can lower the commitment each member has to make to be a part of the community kitchen, so that may be a preferred option. 

When it's time to start finding people to join your community kitchen, make sure to reach out to different sects of the community. You can use word-of-mouth, FaceBook, or community forums to find people interested in the community. This will give you a more concrete idea of the space and the finances you'll need to start a community kitchen program. 

As with any food-related venture, it's always best to do your research before diving in head-first. Lucky for you, there are many community kitchens already established in cities across America. You can ask them questions about their model and how they made the community kitchen "work" for the local area.