A Response to the CTV Interview

We are the Board of Directors for the Parkdale Food Centre. There was a recent interview by one of our local news programs about our approach to food at the Parkdale Food Centre. It has generated quite a lot of feedback and commentary within our community, as well as across the city and at the national level. You may have seen the interview during your nightly news broadcast, heard about it on the radio or read about it online.

The responses we have received from all across the country have been both positive and negative and we welcome that dialogue. We feel it would be helpful to share some information about our centre, why we do what we do, and why we’re so focused on presenting healthy food options to our clients.

We accept all donations, except expired, opened or badly dented containers. Our preference is for healthy wholesome foods and offer suggestions on our Good Food list. We receive generous support from the Ottawa Food Bank (OFB) and apologize for any confusion between our statements and the Ottawa Food Bank.  The OFB is our single largest supplier of donated food and we could not do what we do without their continued support. We also heavily rely on our local community partners, including businesses, Churches, schools and individuals for food or financial donations.

We understand that some may have taken offence at how the message of this interview was described and delivered, seeing it as a criticism of people’s personal choices versus an attempt to highlight an important issue on the lack of food choice and security. That was not the intent. A single headline should not define the Centre or the excellent work of our staff and many volunteers.  Our approach and beliefs are driven by the needs of our clients and donors who we talk a little more about, below.

At our core, we are driven by two obligations, one to our donors and one to those who rely on the Centre:

We have an obligation to our donors, those who support the Centre through monetary, service and food donations to spend the money we receive wisely, getting the best value while also offering the highest quality of food that we can.

We also have an obligation to those who rely on the Centre to provide them with healthy and nutritional food options. Many, given their financial constraints, struggle to purchase nutritional food, particularly as our centre is in an area of the city that is part of a food desert, with few options for affordable fresh produce and no large grocery stores. Many who rely on the Centre do not have the power to choose what to eat and unhealthy foods often make up the core of their daily diet rather than being just an occasional meal or a ‘treat’.

These two obligations are at the heart of how we operate, and resonate with both our donors and our clients. We are passionate about our work and believe in the power of healthy food to transform people’s lives and foster healthier, more connected communities. Our Crock Pot Cooking Classes, cooking workshops, communal meals and support of the Good Food Box are a few examples of how we are working, not just to stock shelves, but to build knowledge, skills and opportunities for the people who visit our Centre. Many local restaurants and chefs lead our cooking workshops, sharing their knowledge in cooking healthy and nutritional meals while providing our clients with the encouragement and skills for cooking meals at home. Our clients have also welcomed this approach to healthy eating and are now regular volunteers at the Centre and a number of them now assist and lead the activities. And probably the most important change we have seen has been the feedback from our clients on their improved health and well-being.

If you are interested in additional information about the Parkdale Food Centre please contact us at info@parkdalefoodcentre.org

– The Parkdale Food Centre Board of Directors

22 Replies to “A Response to the CTV Interview”

  1. Keep up the great work! Working with your agency over the past 3 years it’s fantastic to see the positive changes which you, your staff, your volunteers, your donors and most importantly your clients have been making in the local community.

    1. Hidden Harvest, thank you for your support. We look forward doing even more, especially with the growing partnership with your organization and the opportunity for our clients to lead in the harvesting of local fruits and nuts in the city. That’s a real path to healthy foods – collecting and preserving it yourself.

  2. Karen Secord’s statements during the interview were insulting and condescending to the clients and to the people who donate to your food centre. These people don’t need to be treated like idiots. She needs to be fired.

    1. Frank, we recognize that the interview came across badly and that was not the intention. Our staff is extremely passionate about providing healthy foods for our clients and occasionally, that passion is voiced in the wrong way. However, that same passion has made Parkdale Food Centre a leader in delivering good food, cooking workshops nutritional education and a welcoming community to those who rely on the Centre. We invite you to visit sometime to see how we work and speak with our staff and clients.

  3. There is nothing more empowering than access to nutritious, whole foods. Parkdale Food Center is a place where all people feel welcome, are treated with dignity and respect and are deeply cared for. The strong sense of community at Parkdale can be felt as soon as you walk through the doors. Access to fresh, wholesome food should be a basic human right, and I applaud Parkdale for raising the standards and for being a voice and an advocate for members of our community.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    “Every time you eat or drink you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” – Heather Morgan, MS, NLC.

    1. Thank you Norma-Jean. Dignity, respect and sense of community are core to what makes the Parkdale Food Centre work.

  4. Agreed. How your message was delivered and the person’s body language left a bad taste in the public’s mouth. I understood the message, however I felt insulted for the items that I had donated….. They were not on your list. Many people donate what they can and what they eat themselves. You can add tuna etc to kraft dinner to make it better. I lived on that when I went to school. I survived… Lol.

    In any case, I would definitely not use that lady again. I will presume that donations as a whole for most food banks will go down in the short term as a result of this.


    M. Graham

    1. M. Graham, it was never our intention to offend. We know that many people donate what they can and with that in mind, our Good Food List is designed to assist them, when possible in making the most nutritious and cost effective donation choices. A can of tomatoes and bag of dry pasta costs about $2.50 on sale and with a few spices they create a delicious and healthy pasta meal. As you noted, tuna is an extremely versatile ingredient and a great donation to any food bank. There are many great and economical suggestions in our Good Food List. That said, like all food banks, we gratefully accept all food donations. If you have a chance, please come visit us in you are ever in the neighbourhood.

  5. I have watched the progress your organization has made over the last couple of years, you are truly changing the perception of the role of the food bank and the related industry. Ms Secord has brought the community together and gotten them involved. With progress comes controversy, with passion comes resistance. The discussions going on now are great, we have an opportunity to make real changes. I am a donor and hope to continue as such.

    1. L Cole, thank you for your support. Community – our staff, volunteers and our neighbours in need is the core of the Parkdale Food Centre. Passion does sometimes create controversy but we recognize that there also has to be respect. Occasionally, our passion comes across in the wrong way but our mission remains the same. We look forward to your continuing support and if you have not already dropped by, look forward to seeing you sometime.

  6. Though I agree that providing healthier options is without doubt a good thing, you have gone about it completely the wrong way. The message most people have received is that you are completely ungrateful for the donations you receive. People donate what they can to help out those less fortunate. They do this out of the kindness of their heart and expect nothing in return. Often times those who donate are not that much more “fortunate” than those using your services.

    As an organization that relies on the generosity of others, you are in no position to judge and refuse donations. You should simply say thank you and appreciate everything you receive, because if it weren’t for these donations you wouldn’t even exist. Even that open salad dressing that expired in 2008 should be taken with a smile and a thank you and then dealt with accordingly (i.e.: thrown in the garbage.) Educating your donors, as you do with your “Good Food List”, is the best way to go. With time, donors will respond to this education and the types of donations received will evolve. Unfortunately this hard-line approach that was taken and presented in the CTV piece will only hurt the amount of donations received by not only your organization but by all of the food banks in the city.

    1. Kitsune, we’re glad you share our focus on healthier food choices and also agree that it was not a productive interview. Working with our donors and the continued evolution of the Good Food List are two of our key activities and we have been very pleased with the way donors have responded by providing healthier food choices. And while we prefer healthy foods and there are many on the Good Food List, we gratefully accept all food donations.

  7. I fully support the work of the Parkdale Food Centre because it is beginning to address the core of poverty and chinking away at the cycle of poverty through nutrition and client empowerment.

    I believe the recent brouhaha strikes at a greater societal problem that affects not just clients, but donors as well. And that is the corporatization of food. In a world where many feel stressed and pressed to feed themselves and their families on a budget and with huge time pressures, many of us have turned to processed, pre-packaged foods for the sheer convenience they provide. Many of us know that this is not the healthiest way to eat. Guilt ensues.

    1. Susan, thank you for your note of support. Education and knowledge through crock pot cooking, cooking workshops, food of the month and nutritional discussions are very important activities at the Centre. We are planning more workshops designed to address the budget and time pressures of clients feeding themselves and their families in the most healthy and cost effective ways.

  8. “Actions speak louder than words”
    The actions of Parkedale Food are proof-enough of their commitment to the health and prosperity of the clients they serve.
    Our resolve to assist, by every means at our disposal, is only strengthened now.
    We continue to assist the vulnerable in our core service areas of Ottawa, Kingston and GTA.

    1. Thank you for your support. We are an organization of action beyond the traditional food distribution, focusing on self-sufficiency, education and community for those who use the Centre.

  9. I am so thankful for Karen’s words (special mention for her “we are looking at things from our middle class lens”). Enough with the priority being on the convinience, comfort and “feel good feelings” of the people who give. People with privilege are simply showing and using their privilege when they are “offended” by this request for dignity.

    The Parkdale Food Centre should be proud too employ someone like Karen who has a strong systemic analysis on the issues of food security. Perhaps Karen and her allies could facilitate workshops on the harm of the charity model within social services ??

    Keep up the good work Karen, thank you for ruffling all the feathers that needed to be ruffled!

    1. Thank you for your support Melanie. Our efforts centre on our neighbours in need, those who rely on the Centre. And that work is really all about providing the most nutritious foods possible, delivering great cooking workshops and excellent nutritional education. If we do it all right, then we create a sense of community where our clients take the lead and we simply facilitate.

  10. Hmmm interesting points.

    I had never really thought of the nutrients lacking in food charity services until I had to access them, and my other health issues made it so that I had very few choices and not many of them gave me everything I needed to keep my body healthy and strong. It definitely made my healing and job hunting more difficult. Luckily, I had friends who were able to bring by some greens from their gardens and spices. Not every one is that lucky, though.

    I am happy that these services exist, and that people like Karen are keeping them accountable and being open about some areas that could be improved. It is really embarassing for some of us to access the Food Bank, and when my needs were not being met, I would have been way too ashamed to ask for help on top of free food. I am glad Karen is looking out for us though, as I never know if I will end up in that position again.


    1. Joel, thank you for your note of support. Our passionate belief in healthy food is driven by the close linkage of physical and mental health to what we eat. We recognize the challenges of eating healthy when you are struggling with financial and health challenges. You should not be ashamed to ask for help and if you ever find yourself in that position again, please drop by the Parkdale Food Centre. Our cooking workshops, crock pot cooking and nutritional services could be of great benefit. We also work closely with the Somerset West Community Health Centre to provide access to their extensive suite of health services. Actually, why wait? If you have some questions drop by sometime to chat.

  11. I just wanted to Thank You for the conversation. This is a difficult conversation, but one that needs to take place.

    I noted the comment that non profits should be accepting any donation – and that really bothered me.

    I wonder if people are aware that non profits also must pay for garbage disposal, recycling, green bins and storage space. I wonder if people consider the time it takes to dispose of someone else’s garbage – .For instance the salad dressing example that was used would require emptying the dressing and rinsing out the container then filling your blue bin. Hopefully a volunteer, who was giving of their valuable time could do this, while taking away from their cooking, prep or stocking time but often it is an over worked staff person, who must take time from program management, fund raising, necessary administration… etc.

    The donations that come in that need to thrown out are accepted because we acknowledge that someone wants to help is acting out generosity. But, if it is not beneficial, then informing people of what is helpful and more useful is a welcome conversation for everyone.

    I have met Karen on one occasion and her passion and love for others who are hungry is evident. This is a hard road to go on but the conversation needs to take place. So, thank you for your work and the message of your organization that healthy and nutritious food are key to helping others.

    1. Mary, thank you for your words of support. You are right in that we welcome all donations and always want to acknowledge the generosity of our donors. We also want to help them make the biggest impact and our Good Food List provides a lot of economical and very healthy donation suggestions. If you have a chance again, drop by to say hello.

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