Once a month on a Friday night, Wendy Hepburn, Assistant Director with Citizenship and Multiculturalism, helps to organize a community meal at the Parkdale Food Centre in Ottawa. Community meals support the Food Centre’s goals to provide fresh, wholesome food to people in need, as well as teach members of the community how to cook healthy and delicious meals with simple ingredients.
As part of her volunteer duties, Wendy comes up with the menu and identifies a few dishes suitable for 25 to 30 volunteers and clients to make together. Preparation can include washing and peeling vegetables, cutting fruit, making dough and setting the table. Wendy loves watching people connect while they collaborate in the kitchen.
“Everyone gets a chance to learn and contribute,” she says. “Clients are teaching volunteers and volunteers are teaching clients.”
The community meals are about more than just providing good food for those who can’t afford it. They help people in need connect and socialize with their neighbours, fostering mental health as much as physical health.
“I find people really enjoy having something to look forward to on a Friday night.” Wendy says. “Sharing a meal and engaging with people in the community is pretty special. It helps fight isolation and loneliness, for volunteers and clients alike.”
Repost of article from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s daily internal newsletter Today@CIC. Published with permission.