This report keeps us up at night

Our friends at Somerset West Community Health just released a report on Rooming Houses in Ottawa. The statistics are shocking:

  • 70% of rooming house residents use food banks
  • 82% of residents report bed bugs
  • residents report issues with pests, lack of garbage removal, aggression from landlords, substance abuse problems and more

Our catchment area contains 13 rooming houses which means that a lot of our neighbours are suffering.

Read the whole report here.

Help your neighbours this holiday season

As the holiday season and the end of the year approaches, we’re often asked about ways people can help their neighbours. Donations make an enormous difference to our programs and the support that we are able to offer the more than 750 people we help each month.

Set up a Monthly Donation

Recurring monthly donations are the best way to support the Food Centre. These regular donations help us plan accurately for the future and guarantee a minimum amount of support every month. You can set up a recurring donation here.

Make a One Time Donation

Our online Reverse Food Truck provides a variety of options for sponsorship and donations, from sponsoring a neighbour for a set period of time, giving a one time donation of the things we’re most in need of, supporting a specific program, or just simply helping out. You can make a one time donation here.

Donate in person

We’re always happy to welcome visitors to the Centre, and happily accept donations of non-perishable food, preferably items from our Good Food List, or even fresh produce. We also post weekly updates about our most needed supplies on Twitter, Facebook, and instagram, so you can find out what is running low, or is in the most demand as our #PFCMostNeeded.

Contribute to our annual Soup & Socks campaign

Each year, we collect warm socks for men, women, and children, and little extras like coffee, hot chocolate, hats, mittens, and Giant Tiger gift cards to distribute to our neighbours throughout December. All of these things can be dropped off at the Centre during our regular operating hours. If you would prefer to donate financially to this campaign, please click here.

Sponsor a Family for the Holidays

We have many families that need extra help over the holidays and we now offer a matching service. You fill out this form indicating the size of family you’d like to help and our Secret Holiday Task Force will match you up with a family in need.

Should I donate my excess Halloween candy?

This morning it begins.

First a small bag of tootsie roll lollipops – clearly hitting the low mark on the candy desirability spectrum. Then a box of individually packaged Pringle chips. And more. And more.

Every year, on November 1st, food banks prepare for the influx of sugary treats parents around the country have deemed “too much” for their own kids – but a sweet treat for others! Others who likely also trick-or-treated for blocks and blocks. Newsflash: people who use a food bank are regular real-life in-the-flesh people. People who share the same concerns as you.

I was preparing to send out a reminder to folks about thinking twice before donating their hallowe’en candy to their local food bank, including to us at PFC. I did a quick google search to look for an article to point to, to enhance my teeny 140-character-limited appeal; I searched: “don’t donate your halloween candy to the food bank.” I did a double-take at the results.

“Sweet Ways to Donate Your Halloween Haul to Those in Need..” from MommyPoppins. (Which I actually started reading until the line: “perhaps the best thing to do with Halloween candy is donate it. That way your kids can enjoy a truly special treat: The feeling of helping others.”)

“How to donate Halloween candy to a good cause” –

And perhaps the most flabbergasting: “12 Ways to “Give-Back” Hallowe’en Candy” from the San Diego Family Magazine.


Once on page 2 or 3 there were a few articles that were refreshingly reflective: “It strikes me as somewhat of a double standard to get rid of your kids’ candy in the interest of good health, only to donate it to disadvantaged kids who may already have a poor diet and dental health” said Elizabeth Withey in the Edmonton Journal.

Thank you Elizabeth. We agree. Parkdale Food Centre is located in the Somerset West Community Health Centre – an intentional co-location that addresses the inextricable links between poverty and health. A partnership that recognizes that people living with low-income have poorer health and people facing health challenges are at a greater risk of falling into poverty, creating a cycle that is difficult to escape. So please don’t bring us your halloween candy – if your kids don’t want it, chances are your neighbour’s kids don’t want it either.

So what to do with those tootsie roll lollipops then???

We hear Wellington Village Orthodontics will buy-back your candy: Drop off your candy at 175 Holland Ave before 5pm tonight, on November 1st, and get $1 back for every pound. Plus be entered in a draw for a… Waterpik and Oral B Rechargeable Toothbrush!!!! We hear they will also make a donation to the Ottawa Children’s Aid Foundation for every candy donation. Now that’s how we #scarehunger.

Alissa Campbell

Beyond the street (2017 Campaign)



Have you ever noticed how the businesses along Wellington and Holland get approached all the time for help & donations?  It’s easy for people to walk in and start a conversation.  We have been trying to figure out how to reach out to the 2nd floor professional businesses in our neighbourhood.  Thanks to KWC Architectswe are starting a new challenge.  They are going to help us reach out to fellow “above” the street businesses in our neighbourhood.  

To start us off, they have donated an amazing $5,000 to help us reduce our current $40,000 2017 operational shortfall.  

They have been involved with us for several years including helping us layout our space when we first moved in to 30 Rosemount. KWC Architects “believes in the value of strong and diverse neighbourhoods and communities. The Parkdale Food Centre is a vibrant hub that engages and supports all members of our community through their wide range of services and opportunities. As a local business we believe in the value that PFC brings to the health and well-being of our neighbourhood. We encourage other local businesses to support PFC so we can continue to have this amazing resource!”

Could your business support us this holiday season and help us balance our books by the end of December.  Contact us if you have an idea or want information on how other businesses have helped.  

Could you engage your employees or customers to help you make a contribution?  We’d love to have your business added to our PFC Patrons wall for all contributions above $3000.

Our neighbourhood is lucky that we have so many professionals that call it home and a great place to work.  Help us help your neighbours.

Why I long for December 31st

It’s not what you think.

It’s not New Year’s Eve.  It’s the daywhen I know, as Chair of PFC’s Fundraising Committee, if we’ve made our budget for the year.  Last year was the best and we knew a bit before the 31st that we’d “made it”.

Like most charities, we get most of our donations in the month of December. It’s understandable since many folks only get around to looking at tax-eligible donations at year-end.  I get it, it’s just stressful! Our fundraising committee (which is an awesome and eclectic group including a farmer, a pastor, a retired nurse, an events planner, a lawyer, and a mortgage broker amongst others) has been dreaming up for the last 2 years how we can convert more people to being monthly donors.  This gives us a way to feel comfortable we will achieve our budget, without waiting for December 31 st each year.

Then it came to us.

What could be a stronger visual than 100 of our neighbours joining together to help 100 of our neighbours receive amazing fresh food, a welcoming place to visit, and wonderful programs put on by a kick butt group of staff and volunteers?

Our #100NEIGHBOURSSTRONG campaign was born.

We sent off our ideas to the amazing Jennifer Kwong who volunteers her time as our graphic designer. (Follow her on Instagram).  When we asked some of our regular local business supporters to help by putting up red balloons and a poster and giving out postcards, each and every one of them said yes.

If you’ve never visited the Parkdale Food Centre, there are times when it’s so busy I have to step around folks to drop off whatever I’m popping in to get from the office or dropping off.  I often say hello and recognize faces.  I’ve been lucky enough to learn many names.  The resilience and ability of every visitor to PFC, to share a smile, keeps us never stopping in our quest to do more.

Whenever you visit PFC you can’t help but feel something.  It’s warmth and hope and there is usually some amazing smell coming out of the Don Flynn Community Kitchen.  Our talented chefs arrive each day not knowing what they will be cooking.  It might be a load of Hidden Harvest apples or Chef Pat Garland from Absinthe might have just dropped off a huge amount of ground beef.  No matter the ingredients, their talent and creativity always culminate in a beautifully plated delicious meal.

Whenever I waver about asking my friends to donate more or worry we are asking too much of our community, I  remember one boy.  He was about the same age as my son.  He was shy at first but we spent a bit of time as I went around shopping with him and his mom and sisters on a Food Bank day
when Karen wanted me to actually learn what it was like to use the Food Bank program.  He was helping his mom load their bags carefully so the heavy items weren’t all in one bag.  He knew he’d be helping to carry it home.  He was also helping to keep his boisterous little sisters in order since they were having fun (as kids should be!).  He was so polite.  I really wanted to ask for a hug at the end since I felt such a connection with him.  I was too shy to ask.

I am not too shy to ask you to consider becoming a monthly donor.  We currently have all types of monthly donors.  One is a new grad who donates 2 cartons of eggs on our Shopify Reverse Food Truck, for $8/month.  One is my friend’s parent who gives $100 per month.  Each and every one is unique.

For anyone on the fence and wondering about where the money is going:

It’s going to food.

We spend on average $10,000 a month in groceries on top of the truck-load of donations we get each Tuesday fr

om the Ottawa Food Bank and our neighbourhood retailers.

It’s going to staff.

A dedicated small group of compassionate individuals committed everyday to
helping provide not only food, but a smile and a set of ears to listen to how people are doing. I’ve got to go and turn my monthly donation back on, I’d “paused” it while I was on a work hiatus – but now it’s time to turn it back on. This community has it in them to be #100NEIGHBOURSSTRONG.

Join us and help us get to be #100NEIGHBOURSSTRONG by December 31st.

Learn more about our #100NEIGHBOURSSTRONG campaign here.

Kind Regards,


Dovercourt WAVE Program runs their own Growing Futures Franchise

One of the projects of the Parkdale Food Centre is Growing Futures, a social enterprise that uses innovative growing systems to produce, market and sell fresh produce.

One of the participants is the Dovercourt WAVE Program, an autism program for adults. They have been running a franchise for the last seven months and here is what they have to say:

My favourite part about working the plants thus far, has been watching the group gain ownership of something that they have become passionate about. They really enjoy watering the plants and making sure the PH levels are good so that the plants are getting the right nutrients. They really enjoy when it is time to harvest- Weighing the lettuce, sorting through the good lettuce and the bad lettuce and then selling them at Dovercourt mostly to the Gold Club Members has been the highlight. They have made meaningful relationships with some of the clients and we now have returning clients every week who look forward to seeing us!
– Kelsey Saunderson, Supervisor

“I liked giving them water and watching them grow”
– Gabriel, Participant
“I worked with the plants and found it very relaxing. It was good to work with other apprentices”
-Jessie, Participant

Annual BBQ!

Written by: Kristen (Algonquin College Business Student)

The Friday before last, Food Centre hosted their annual summertime barbecue. As a first-time PFC barbecue-goer, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was greeted with pleasant surprises. It turns out that` everyone associated with the PFC is somehow friendlier than the last, and the burgers have so many condiment options, that I definitely shared some relish with my shirt.

I quickly learned that the BBQ was hardly about the food, though—people from all over Ottawa came together to connect, and some brave souls (I’m looking at you, Karen!) also danced together to the sound of De Jazz Guys. In case dancing and food weren’t enough to bring people together, there was also a play area for the kids—complete with foam building blocksthat were also kind of fun for us adults, too.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention Merry Dairy dropped by to grace us all with free soft cones and I’m pretty sure some of us snuck seconds. The sunshine cooperated and there was a special appearance by the Shoe Bank, who had an impressive selection of runners, boots, and other footwear.

All in all, my take-away from the PFC BBQ was that it’s so much more than a barbecue. It was a place for community to grow and connect with each other. If you have the chance, drop by PFC or Somerset West to see all the great things they do.

Note from Food Centre: “Throughout the year we have dozens of requests from students who are eager to have a volunteer experience. We welcome this! It is a wonderful opportunity to engage them in conversations about food charity and a system that often promotes, rather challenges, growing economic inequality. This guest blog was written by an Algonquin College business student. We hope that Kristen and her classmates came away with a better understanding of the important role compassion and advocacy play in the work we do.”

4th Annual Gala Wrap-up!

On Thursday June 1st, we hosted our fourth annual Gala –at the GCTC.   We loved welcoming donors, foodies, volunteers, Board Members, community supporters and some neighbours were thrilled to attend thanks to some tickets that were donated.  Our goal was to raise $20,000 which would pay for two months of our summer grocery bills.

We were thrilled with the generosity of everyone who attended and are very excited to announce that we raised $23,000! Our shelves will be stocked over the summer months when we typically struggle to keep up with demand when many of our donors are away on summer vacations.

We couldn’t put on the event without the amazing generosity of our food providers.  Food was graciously donated by Absinthe, Allium, Bar Laurel, DISH, Holland’s Cake & Shake, Supply and Demand, Stella Luna Gelato, Thyme & Again, and Urban Element. Folks were raving about the food all night and loved interacting with the chefs at the various stations.

Thanks to Beyond the Pale for donating the beer and Jeff Hill from BMO Nesbitt Burns for being our wine sponsor. A special thanks to Sheila Whyte for donating a crew of amazing servers from Thyme & Again which kept the evening flowing perfectly.

The Peptides blew us away with their energy and amazing music. People enjoyed hitting the dance floor and partying to welcome summer!

The Silent Auction tables upstairs and downstairs were busy with amazing prizes. Bidding was fierce!  We were thrilled with the generosity of local business owners who provided great prizes to help us meet our fundraising target.  The hottest prize of the night went to the custom designed barn-board dining table which was so popular we sold it twice!  Other great prizes included donations from Thyme & Again, Uproar Paint and Paper, and Oresta Organics were just a few of the generous donors who provided prizes for the auction.  We had many happy prize winners at the end of the night and a few folks regretting they hadn’t placed that last bid in time! We’ve been requested to have an airhorn for next year to warn people when the final bids need to be in!

13: A Social Enterprise, youth entrepreneurs were sharing samples of their new spice mixes. This year’s cohort is close to wrapping up their year and we were bursting with pride to see their confidence in sharing with folks what the program has meant to them. Our community helpers from Fisher Park Summit were there to greet folks at the door and share their experiences with our Growing Futures program and making pesto which some lucky guests got as a Thank you gift.  These helpers volunteer regularly at our Centre and truly understand the various programs we offer our neighbours.

This is our largest fundraiser of the year. The supporters are many but the need remains.  We feel the community support.  Thanks to all of you for letting us raise the funds we need to support your neighbours.

Until next year!

Photos by JR Photography

Music, Dancing and Food Security


Photo Credit: Valerie Keeler

The PepTides are thrilled to be playing music in support of the Parkdale Food Centre at the Great Canadian Theatre Company on June 1.

One sunny afternoon, we stopped in at Parkdale to say a neighbourly hello. Instantly we felt right at home—and not just because manager Karen Secord was sporting a shock of saucy green hair (if you’ve seen The PepTides’ coifs, you’ll understand!). Every person working in the space had a clear sense ofpurpose and exuded friendliness.

Karen proceeded to explain that “we are a food bank that doesn’t believe in food banks.” Wait, what? What she meant, as we discovered, was that collecting canned beans in a food drive, while a laudable gesture, doesn’t really get at the root causes of why people in need can’t feed themselves in the first place.

Within the space of a few minutes, we saw people cooking their own food, growing their own food, sourcing their own food—even planning how they could make a business selling lettuce to local restaurants and teaching basic business skills to teenagers. Those teenagers, equipped with those basic business skills, will be much better able to feed themselves in their 20s and 30s than they would if they had simply opened a can of beans for lunch.

We found ourselves remembering an old quotation: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is powerful stuff. And light years ahead of what we were expecting.

Our field trip to the Parkdale Food Centre also struck home for another reason: food insecurity is a reality for many artists. A report from the Canadian Independent Music Association speaks of how indie artists (like ourselves) spend 29 hours a week on music and bring in just $7,228 per year. This four-figure salary leaves our colleagues vulnerable in countless ways.

For a stretch of several months in 2015, PepTides founder Claude MarQuis relied on a food bank just to get enough calories to make it through the day. “Food insecurity can affect anyone, but don’t ever be ashamed,” he says. “More than a trillion dollars a year is spent globally on military expenditures. That’s astronomically crazy. Food banks are the humane necessity where the current system has let humanity down. Poverty is not necessarily self-induced. It takes a village to create poverty. And to fix it.”

If the work of the Parkdale Food Centre makes you want to dance, that’s exactly what you should do.

Come to the gala on June 1 and join the circle.

Congratulations to the Parkdale Food Centre Team!

written by Jocelyn Campbell

Dear Karen, Sue and Alissa,

I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to the launchpad for Growing Futures. I call it a launchpad because I believe it truly is an initiative that has the sky as its limits! 150 tower gardens is just the beginning.

What a great job the PFC team did to bring it all together yesterday at the Innovation Centre! I enjoyed myself tremendously. What a wonderful turnout! The energy in the hall was contagious.

Connaught P.S. students at the Growing Futures LaunchI enjoyed talking to and visiting the different businesses operated by the students. The children had boundless enthusiasm! So nice to see. I asked one of the children if he planned on having his own business some day, and without any hesitation, he said, “For sure!” I am certain there were many like him in attendance yesterday.

It is obvious that a lot of work and time went into making this day possible. The event was super well-organized.

The fancy drinks (nice touch), the speeches (so much enthusiasm!), the excellent video, the letters written by the students to promote the towers “Buy a tower NOW!”, (I almost bought one on the spot!?) the great food offerings, the Ottawa U photos… all contributed to make the launching of Growing Futures a huge success.

The children are learning so much. This initiative will indeed make life more equal for many of them thanks to their own efforts, initiative and commitment. What a wonderful gift you have given to the children! You are making a lasting impact on their lives.