Where caring comes from and where it can take us

Published in the Kitchissippi Times – December 2020

Karen Secord, Executive Director, Parkdale Food Centre, reminisces about poverty and how an individual’s innate kindness and compassion can create a ripple effect throughout a community.

There are some memories that are more than reels of movie footage haphazardly assembled in your minds eye; the way my Nanny built her life around the tiny northern New Brunswick community of Atholville is like that for me.

It was a working man’s town, where the goings-ons at the pulp and paper mill decided whether or not people had a job and what their children ate the following week. I remember the air smelled and snow banks were so high we couldn’t open the front door.

My Pops was a Hennessey, Irish through and through, with rough hands a devilish grin and musicality that exploded into many a jig and lively song during their infamous kitchen parties. My Nanny was a Boudreau and her fingers wore the sheen off her rosary, her kindness for her community was unmatched.

Even though my parents had moved away from the maritimes after my birth, we visited often during the first decade or so of my life. I didn’t know Nanny and Pops were “poor” until much later. I don’t think I would have believed it had someone told me, or maybe I just didn’t know or care about being poor. After all, I never saw them want for anything. Their big house and even bigger hearts were all I needed at the time.

My Nanny spent her days standing by the stove kneading bread or making dumplings to go on top of the bubbling sticky potatoes, cabbage and carrots that she called stew. We would devour the bread crusts soaked in hot milk with brown sugar for lunch or before bed. I thought it was so yummy and wondered why my parents didn’t provide that for my meals at home. It was the love and kindness in sharing food that filled my belly, I know that now.

Nanny didn’t make small batches of anything. Everything she made was large and meant to share. Extra bread and biscuits with preserves or pickles might be sent with Pops to the family a few doors down. Or, maybe half the pot of stew was headed to the lady with a newborn and a husband out of work. She made molasses cookies, too. My mouth waters just imagining them, even after fifty years. Many neighbours received a parcel of Nan’s special molasses cookies for no reason other than they were neighbours.

I wonder sometimes how these early lessons have shaped my approach to life; how much of my Nan’s simple, uncomplicated kindness and my Pop’s zest for socializing have been grafted onto my soul.

As the Executive Director at the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC), our mission is just this. Creating community and ensuring we are all part of it. Neighbour to Neighbour. As we head into December,I find it difficult to ignore that hundreds of families in Ottawa are homeless and will spend the holidays in motel rooms or other impractical spaces; that many were there in 2019 and some even in 2018.

At PFC, we are reminded almost daily that it is impossible to prepare and serve a nutritious family meal, let alone a festive meal, when a microwave is your primary cooking appliance. I cried in disbelief when a woman told me that her family of six had rice for their Christmas meal in 2019, while only a short distance away there was a community holiday celebration where they would have been welcome. But no one thought to invite them.

Covid-19 has complicated everything. Enjoying a holiday meal on Christmas day in the company of others likely won’t be safe. Since this began, the winter season, the holiday season has been looming. The Parkdale Food Centre has grappled with the seemingly impossible predicament of how to serve delicious meals in the winter, while respecting Ottawa Public Health guidelines. Many of the people we serve have health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable and their disability income ($1,169) or Ontario Works ($733) doesn’t offer them the luxury to purchase much after rent is paid. Food, let alone healthy food is often not an option.

I won’t lie and tell you everything is going to be alright because I don’t know that it will. The number of people requiring help is increasing weekly. The cost of food is expected to rise this winter. The Parkdale Food Centre gives each person a robust order of good food once a month and we offer take-home meals, and cooking classes several times a week. Although we rescue food, buy wholesale and in bulk, our grocery bill is enormous.

We need your help. Sixty percent of our funding comes from you, our neighbours.

I can tell you that, like my grandparents did all those years ago, our team at the Parkdale Food Centre will do everything we can to ensure that anyone who needs food assistance is also given kindness, compassion and, often, really amazing bread.

Visit us at parkdalefoodcentre.ca or call 613-722-8019 to donate.

COVID-19 and the right to food

After three decades of shuffling discarded and donated food from the “haves” to the “have-nots”, Parkdale Food Centre abandoned it’s old vision and values and began to speak the truth: food banking is driven more strongly by models of corporate greed and inflated egos, than by values that recognize the right to healthy and nutritious food for all as a basic human right. We became social justice activists the day we refused to simply dole out scraps that often were not even meal-worthy.
Instead, we began cooking with our neighbours and eating together as a community, created programming that strengthened community engagement, asked the difficult questions and included many in the answers- most of whom are often left out in food banking, changed our mission, and believed in a better and more equitable system. The invitation to join the newly-formed Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice gives our small, but mighty grassroots organization an opportunity to share ideas and join forces with other like-minded researchers, academics and hard workers to build an exit strategy to food banking. Below is the blog, which announces the launch of the alliance.

~ Karen Secord, Executive Director, Parkdale Food Centre

For any inquiries regarding Parkdale Food Centre’s involvement in the alliance, contact: karen@parkdalefoodcentre.org


Exploring the emergence of a Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice

Around the world, COVID-19 is shaking the foundation of our globalized economic system to its core. The “richest” countries in the world are staring into the face of an economic depression. In the United States, more than 38 million people across the nation applied for unemployment benefits in the last seven weeks alone, and millions more are expected to lose their jobs in the weeks to come. Officially, the unemployment rate in Canada has jumped to nearly 13% – more than any jump during the three major recessions since the 1980s. Meanwhile, economists in Canada agree that these figures do not capture the severity of the crisis when you factor in the erosion of employment insurance since the 1970s and the current ratio of housing costs to income. In the UK, unemployment has soared past three million people for the first time in 30 years.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a massive expansion of food charities. In the US, appeals for donations to food charities are a new media constant, and the government is relying heavily upon food banks to redirect agricultural waste. In Canada the federal government has allocated 50 million dollars to shore up the struggling food bank system. Food pantries and food banks were not a regular feature of life in the United Kingdom until 10 years ago.

Now, the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) have reported that independent food banks operating across the UK have seen a major rise in emergency food parcel distribution since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Almost a third of organisations experienced rises of 100% or more comparing figures for the months of March 2019 and March 2020. This crisis-within-a-crisis is accelerating the institutionalization of food banking in several countries, as a means of plastering over the gap between need and insufficient income for millions.

Following this pandemic (and already in motion) will be an equally staggering rise in food insecurity across the globe. COVID-19 has brought us to the proverbial crossroads. For several decades our governments have been abdicating their role to ensure the right to food for our nations, increasingly foisting this role onto the private sector. As a result, widespread food insecurity and wealth inequality has grown in our countries. The COVID-19 crisis has made evident that this ‘normal’ is no longer tenable. We are witnessing a private charitable feeding system that has for too long filled the protective role of government pushed to its limits. This is in combination with vertically integrated just-in-time food supply chains that are fraying at the edges. Such consequences are exposing the true extent – and root causes – of the hunger problem in these rich-but-unequal countries.

Make no mistake – this is not a new crisis, but a deepening of fault lines that millions of working families and low-income people have been straddling for the past 40 years. COVID-19 is heightening this decades-old crisis, deepening those cracks, and finally letting enough light in for all to see and experience deep contradictions in our food and social welfare systems and the uneven distribution of wealth that it begets. This voracious extractive economy we’ve been feeding is about to burst at the seams. It’s time for us to reach beyond our nation-states and mobilize, organize, and get loud together as a growing internationalist movement envisioning a different kind of world that centers people over profits and rebuilds the social contract.

Enter the newly named Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice. This group of non-governmental organizations, national networks, grassroots activists, and scholars began to emerge two years ago out of relationships built at Trans-Atlantic conferences and meetings, resulting in a growing shared analysis of and reaction to the increased use of private philanthropy and transnational corporate food banking as a response to “rich world” hunger and poverty.

Much of this analysis has a long-standing history; we’ve seen writing about the international dimensions of food charity since the 1980s, but the lasting effects of the 2008 global recession, together with the acceleration and expansion of the Global Foodbanking Network, which has evolved to disperse the charitable food model across the world, and have led to our renewed focus in organising around these issues.

While the structural issues that this alliance addresses are global, the proliferation of institutionalized corporate food banking, private philanthropy, food banks, and other “emergency measures” as permanent responses to poverty and food insecurity originated in the United States, before spreading to Canada and, since the mid 1980s, have steadily advanced across Europe and other parts of the globe. These solutions have never addressed the root causes of food insecurity, and oftentimes exacerbate poverty. They have allowed governments to look the other way, ignoring income policies and human rights, all the while creating greater openings for the corporate capture of public policy and funding, as well as contributing to the downfall of the welfare state.

This particular analysis is currently missing, or not prominently understood, in the global movements for the right to food and food sovereignty. This #RightsNotCharity alliance seeks to complement and amplify the ongoing work of powerful grassroots networks and movements at national, regional, and global levels that are addressing food systems, public health inequities, poverty reduction and social security.

The Global Solidarity Alliance’s focus on so-called “wealthy” countries is a means to build a shared understanding among those in North America and Europe – especially among those who are on the frontlines and work alongside those most impacted by hunger and poverty — of the patterns of destructive policies which have taken hold in North America and are being replicated without criticism in European Countries, and beyond. We seek to build together collective strategies of resistance and alternative models and practices to promote the fulfillment of the right to nutritious food in our respective parts of the world. We also want to invite participation from beyond North America and Europe. In so doing, we will be better prepared to accompany our global allies who have long felt the perverse effects of resource extraction and colonialism by our governments and open collective pathways to authentically struggle for food sovereignty as a right of all people everywhere.
Here’s what some of the co-founders of the emerging Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice have to say about its potential:

“For the past decade in the UK, emergency food provision has grown, and is becoming an ever more normalized ‘response’ to poverty and insecurity, as we’ve seen in a North American context over a longer time period. Now more than ever, emergency food is playing a key role in responding to the needs of those most vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Whilst these responses are currently much-needed, the idea of charitable food as an ‘emergency’ must be re-framed; especially important in a (post) COVID-19 context, where the entrenchment and corporatization of food aid are becoming more critical and prominent. Whilst this situation is likely to intensify further as we enter a period of deepening inequality and precarity, there are genuine opportunities for change – something this growing alliance makes possible.” – Dr. Kayleigh Garthwaite, Birmingham Fellow in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology, Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) Trustee and author of Hunger Pains: Life inside foodbank Britain.

“The right to food exists in Canada and has since 1976. It does not mean that the government is required to give out free food. Rather, the government is obliged to create the conditions for people to be able to access good, nutritious, affordable food with dignity, now and in the future. Successive governments, however, have failed to meet these obligations. Covid-19 has the potential of further enshrining food charity as our default response to the almost 4.5 million Canadians that are food insecure. Politicians encourage donations to food banks and themselves wrestle over the opportunity to be photographed sorting what amounts to corporate waste and other people’s leftovers, while ignoring the structural barriers preventing people from accessing their right to food. Food banks have only been a part of the Canadian landscape since 1981, but yet they are so deeply entrenched that not one organization or institution is able to fight back against this neo-liberal response to hunger. The Global Solidarity Alliance is pushing back against this pervasive narrative and gives me great hope.” – Paul M. Taylor, Executive Director, FoodShare Toronto

“The Global Solidarity Alliance is offering a unique space for building a shared analysis and coordinated action among those advocating for the right to nutritious food amidst the growing entrenchment, legitimization and spreading of private charity as an acceptable response to hunger in countries of high wealth. As we weave together and amplify the stories, experiences and visions for justice from our own communities, we will be prepared to align and build with social movements in the struggle for food sovereignty worldwide.” – Alison M. Cohen, Senior Director of Programs, WhyHunger

“The work of the Global Solidarity Alliance is crucial in these unprecedented times where inequalities are exposed, revealing deep structural violence against the impoverished, disabled, children, Black and other racially minoritised and marginalised people. With millions more thrust into poverty and unable to afford food the charitable food model proliferates with the consolidation of Big Food and the increasing corporate capture of food aid. The broad experience and expertise of the Alliance offers thought and practise leadership in developing and modeling solutions for a just discovery.” – Dee Woods FRSA, Food and Farming Action-ist, co-chair Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), and co-founder of the African and Caribbean Heritage Food Network

“Food charities should not have to carry the burdens of reconciling glaring contradictions between food waste and hunger. Over the past 40 years, states, private businesses and philanthropists have invested billions of dollars into a food banking infrastructure to resolve the inefficiencies of an economic model that produces want amidst plenty. Food banks have grown into critical nodes of our global food supply chains as farmers, food manufacturers and retailers are increasingly relying on poverty and hunger to mitigate their own risks of financial loss. The moral impulse to address hunger should not neutralize our moral outrage over a food system that fixes unsustainable levels of overproduction by growing its feeding lines. The global solidarity alliance works to rewrite the call to charity toward food justice and push back against monopolistic dynamics that currently limit our collective power to enact food sovereignty”. – Joshua Lohnes, Food Policy Research Director, West Virginia University – Center for Resilient Communities

“Long lines at food banks have become an icon of the Covid-19 pandemic, side by side with pictures of milk dumped on the fields and vegetables plowed under. People are rightly outraged by the massive waste amid distressing need, but the answer is not for our societies to become even more dependent upon food banks. The pandemic has revealed both the utter inadequacy of our social safety net and the fragility of our highly concentrated food system. When four companies control 80 % of the meat processing in the US, is it any wonder that there are “disruptions” in our supplies? When legislatures make even the most minimal social support contingent on the fulfillment of work requirements, is it any wonder that people are destitute in the richest nations in the history of the world? In order to secure the human right to food, we need to develop a reliable income security policy on the one hand, and a network of resilient, sustainably produced, local and regional food supplies on the other. I welcome the Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health, and Social Justice as a forum in which we can collaborate to address both sides of the food security challenge. We need rights, not charity”. -Jan Poppendieck, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Hunter College, City University of New York and author, Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement (Penguin, 1999) and Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression (University of California Press, 2014).

“Widespread hunger and food insecurity in today’s rich world are markers of the moral vacuum at the centre of forty years of neoliberalism. As governments have neglected their human rights obligations under international law, charitable food banking fed by Big Food and corporate philanthropy in the USA, Canada and the UK – indeed across the OECD – have become the band aid food safety net for broken systems of income security. This outsourcing of rights based social policy has enabled ineffective and stigmatising food handouts to replace income security for those in need. Food banking is a failed response, incapable of ensuring food security for the jobless, the homeless and those on low incomes. The catastrophe of Covid-19 now reveals the true extent of the public health emergency and the crisis of income inequality and material deprivation plaguing our wealthy societies. The Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice intends to inform and educate by holding government and public policy to account. Please join. #RightsNotCharity!” – Graham Riches, Professor Emeritus of Social Work, University of British Columba, author of Food Banks and the Welfare Crisis (Ottawa: CCSD 1986) and Food Bank Nations. Poverty, Corporate Charity and the Right to Food (Routledge, 2018)

“The Global Solidarity Alliance is creating the space to unwind common understandings related to food insecurity. The goal is to change the narrative-moving away from charity as the solution to hunger to understanding the root causes of hunger and shifting policy, practice, and investments towards building a more equitable and resilient food system for all.” – Jennifer Zuckerman, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Duke University World Food Policy Center

“Covid-19 is the crisis-within-a-crisis that highlights and exacerbates the contradictions of a profit-prioritising food system that produces both waste and hunger. We have seen millions of animals slaughtered due to loss of market value and highly concentrated slaughtering facilities at a time of overwhelming demand for emergency food, an eerie echo of 1930s America when baby hogs were liquefied to forestall market gluts at a time of visible destitution. This politically-embarrassing contradiction between excess and scarcity, as Janet Poppendieck and others have long documented, has been alleviated by ever-expanding private food charity. Covid-19 is a klaxon call to attend to food production systems that damage ecosystems (and exacerbate pandemic risks) yet have consistently failed to ensure everyone an affordable, nutritious, desirable diet. Many working and volunteering for food charities agree that they cannot be the key response to hunger; the Global Solidarity Alliance will galvanise the vital role of government as well as partnerships between producers, campaigners, researchers and the many people fighting for a food future that’s fair for all.” – Charlie Spring, Research Associate interested in international food charity, University of Calgary and Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance.

Stay tuned: A website and social media presence is coming soon. If you’d like to get involved, we’d love to hear from you – including groups beyond the UK, US and Canada.


Alison Meares Cohen, WhyHunger, alison@whyhunger.org

Paul Taylor, FoodShare Toronto, paul@foodshare.net

Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham, K.Garthwaite@bham.ac.uk

Below are some of the most recent articles published by members of the Global Solidarity Alliance:

Dr. Maddy Power, University of York: COVID-19 exposes inequalities in the UK food system, new analysis reveals

Paul Taylor, FoodShare Toronto: Pandemic has exposed the rifts in our social fabric

Andrew Fisher, author of Big Hunger: The COVID Crisis Is Reinforcing the Hunger Industrial Complex

Graham Riches, author of Food Bank Nations: Poverty, Corporate Charity and the Right to Food: How Food Banks Prop up a Broken System

Dr. Kayleigh Garthwaite: It’s not the hungry who gain most from food banks – it’s big business |

Maggie Dickinson and Joshua Lonnes: Where Do Food Banks Fit in to the Fight for a Green New Deal?

Sabine Goodwin, IFAN: Between the devil and the deep blue sea


Why do people come to the Parkdale Food Centre?

(From left to right): Rachel Godkin-Jackson, Lindsey Grodesky, Douce Chamukenge, Rebecca McCaffrey (Clinical Preceptor), Marjorie Kort (Clinical Instructor)

For a while we at the Parkdale Food Centre have been wondering, “why do people choose to come to PFC?” Not only that, but also, “what barriers do people actually face in eating healthy?”

These are questions we think about regularly but have had trouble answering in a more objective way.

This past semester, we were privileged to have three nurses from U of Ottawa/ Algonquin College come to the Food Centre to complete a nursing practicum course. The three nurses, Douce Chamukenge, Rachel Godkin-Jackson, Lindsey Grodesky, interviewed our neighbours at the intake desk and worked as volunteers to gather the necessary information.

As part of their final project, they have released a report with their findings. It is worth reading and can be accessed here.

A Kitchen Upgrade

(written by Lynda Hansen)

Where would the Parkdale Food Centre be without our wonderful community partners and supporters?

It was just over 3 years ago that we moved in at 30 Rosemount Avenue, after a fast, frenzied fit-up that transformed a dark, rabbit warren-type space into a bright, welcoming community hub, food bank and kitchen. Never in a million years did we imagine just how busy that kitchen would be! A full time Kitchen Manager, daily breakfast and lunch 3 days per week, weekly cooking workshops, community meals, the list goes on.

With the constant and increasing activity came the need for upgrades, repairs, more equipment. Enter St. Matthias Church. For many years, St Matthias had been hosting community meals, once a month at PFC. In February 2016 the St. Matthias Anglican congregation (Parkdale Ave at the Queensway) merged with All Saints’ Westboro (Anglican).  Many long-time members of All Saints’ Westboro joined in with St. Matthias Community Meals volunteer teams and continue to heartily support this legacy ministry of the former St. Matthias Church. Rev Simone Hurkmans, one of the priests at All Saints’ Westboro, along with the Ven Chris Dunn, Rev Dr Linda Privitera and, formerly, Canon John Wilker-Blakley — have all donned aprons and wielded knives or spatulas during our community meals (so they knew the limitations of our kitchen!). In the fall of 2016, they asked us to submit a proposal for funds from the recent sale of their church on Parkdale Avenue. While it was sad for the congregation to leave the St Matthias Building behind, they were delighted to have a portion of its sale price returned to the community in support  of PFC.

**Fast forward to 2018, past all the boring research and requests for quotes**

The Parkdale Food Centre is now the proud owner of a fire suppression system (that we hope to never use!), and a super-efficient dish pit complete with a new-used low temperature dishwashing machine boasting a 60 second cycle, with a new rinse sink and clean tabling. Thank you St Matthias!

But it doesn’t stop there. Without a doubt, it would not have been possible without our long-time supporter, Archer Environmental. They are patient, generous, and always willing to help us out. Our new dishwashing machine was donated and installed at no cost. And if you think that was easy, think again. Installing a new dishwasher also meant we needed the rinse sink and tabling to attach to it. Chef Pat Garland to the rescue! As soon as he saw what we were up to, he offered some tabling from his own busy restaurant kitchen. “I’m going to renovate soon anyway”. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Thank you, Chef Pat!

To make the tabling fit, we had the great good fortune to find Blanchfield
Commercial Kitchens. They were able to pick up the tabling, cut it to suit, and bring it back to us; again, at no cost. We are so lucky! Thank you, Blanchfield!

We also have some great trades and suppliers that made the implementation of these upgrades look easy. Thank you, Gloucester Electric, Fullarton Plumbing, Shields Mechanical, Andersen Fire, Chubb Edwards, and Russell Hendrix for your great work and professionalism.

Our heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to the St. Matthias congregation for the funds to support these fantastic upgrades. We are so grateful for this help to make our community kitchen more efficient, not to mention safer.

More than a Food Centre

Parkdale is more than a Food Centre and most everyone knows that, but every once in a while you get reminded of that when something happens outside of what is a “normal day” at PFC. Today was one of those days  

We were cleaning up after Collective Kitchen, washing dishes by hand because the dishwasher had broken down. But hey we had a little “dishwashing work bee” happening with many hands and dish cloths and towels making light work of that not so envious task.  A new face appeared at the door – a face of a young person scared, alone, crying, hungry and afraid that the world had lost sight of her.  One of the regular neighbours quickly rallied around her and someone got Karen – who whisked her to a private office to provide comfort and reassure her that she was not alone that there was help that the world hadn’t forgot about her.  

We put the kettle on and made tea.  Lunch was reheated for our new neighbour who hadn’t eaten a proper meal in almost 48 hours.  She quickly gobbled everything up and drank down her tea with hands cupped around the heat of the mug. Lots of crying, sobbing, hugs, more crying, talking and then a few smiles happened.  Forms were filled out so she could seek assistance from the Health Centre located upstairs. Food was gathered into bags for her to take home and in those bags was more tea. Those bags of food, a cup of tea, a hot meal, some friendly reassurances, new friendships, and the appointment and resource assistance with the Health Centre reminded me of the comfort and hope that can and does happen each day at PFC.

What is Growing Futures?

Growing Futures is a response to an increasingly uncertain world.

We are a social enterprise geared towards promoting food and financial literacy in children and youth, so they have a better chance at living healthy and fulfilling lives. We aim to foster a more physically and financially resilient next generation by teaching children and youth the importance of good food, how to grow it, and the basics of running their own business.

Participants develop these critical skills by using hydroponic growing systems to create small market gardens. Through Growing Futures, groups of youth (Harvesters) partner with local businesses (Business Partners), who provide mentorship and a customer base. The leafy greens and herbs grown are also sold to individuals, which increases community access to affordable healthy food.

Growing Futures is a social enterprise created and delivered by the Parkdale Food Centre. The project has sparked the imaginations of schoolchildren, university students, and community members.

It encompasses many people’s stories because we work with such diverse groups and would not have as much impact on their lives if we didn’t bring all those groups together.

We Have Stories to Tell

Let us tell the story of a young man whose experience as a Harvester gave him the pride and confidence to become a peer mentor to other people struggling with addictions. Let us tell you the story of a teenage boy who became passionate about helping people in his community. Let us tell you our story, and by doing so, show how healthy food can be a powerful way to unite people.

Growing Futures’ story is important to tell because people need to hear what we’re doing and the kind of impact we’ve had in Ottawa. Our story is important to tell because it reminds us all why we do what we do when we have difficult days. Our story is important to tell because it reminds us how important our work is, as a sector, and how powerful food can be.

Indeed, everything Growing Futures does is designed to empower our youth and the community at large to develop the skills they will need to thrive in a changing economy. We empower our participants in body, mind, and soul; our produce powers participants’ bodies, our programming powers their minds to dream bigger dreams, and our community powers their souls.

Dear Neighbours: A Request from Anne

The following is a real letter from Anne Heffernan (a volunteer at the Parkdale Food Centre) to the other residents of her condo.



 You have probably heard that Loblaws is offering eligible customers a $25 gift card after it was discovered that customers had been overcharged for bread products over the past several years.  Much of the media has been encouraging folks to donate their cards to their local food banks, if they don’t need the card themselves.  If this is something one would like to do, the process is very simple. You can fill out the form on their website by clicking here and donate your card whenever you receive it.  It’s very easy and just takes a few minuted to do.  Loblaws will mail it to you directly.  This rebate is not limited to a household but to individuals.

The Parkdale Food Centre is our neighbour at 30 Rosemount Avenue.  I am one of their volunteers.  The PFC spends close to $10,000 on groceries every month.  A significant portion of this food is purchased at the the Real Canadian Superstore.

As good neighbours, I’d like to encourage all our residents who qualify, to apply for this credit and consider donating it to the PFC.  I’m willing to co-ordinate this effort by collecting the cards.  They could be placed in the same envelope and slipped under my door.

 I believe that we really love our neighbourhood and like to support our local businesses.  I feel it is also important to support our neighbours through our volunteer efforts.  This is a very simple way to do that.

 Would it be possible to forward my email to all our residents and also post it on our notice boards?


Anne Heffernan

2017 in Review

Did you miss what we were up to in 2017?

Here are some highlights from 2017 (made possible by generous friends and donors)

*Growing Futures impacted 100’s of children, educators and businesses across the city by teaching food and financial literacy, entrepreneurship and community building.

*We offered part-time steady employment to five neighbours and 3 youth.

*We provided supervised school placements to four post-secondary students interested in food justice.

*We introduced 24 low income youth to entrepreneurship through 13SocEnt.

*We were honoured to be selected to receive both the United Way Community Builder of the Year “From Poverty to Possibility” Award, and the Canadian Volunteer Award for Social Innovation in Ontario.

*We hosted over 80 cooking workshops with a wide variety of Ottawa chefs, home cooks and neighbours leading them.

*We helped our neighbours find housing, dental care, furniture, clothing, veterinary care and so much more!

*Dozens of groups from government departments chose preparing food for their neighbours in PFC’s kitchen as a team-building exercise. We happily distributed the fresh food to those in need.

*We cooked two meals each week for the children in SWCHC’s after school program and one hearty snack for the “Place to Be” drop in.

*With the help of St. Lawrence Employment Centre we found a job for anyone who asked for help.

*To address concern that the Chinese Senior’s lunch might be cancelled we offered to provide the ingredients needed to ensure a healthy meal and social outing could be provided.

*PFC became a weekly stop for Market Mobile. Now everyone has regular access to fresh food at wholesale prices. Our staff and volunteers helped to make this possible.

*By offering our neighbours as many fruits and vegetables as they need we distributed over 250 boxes of bananas, 150 boxes of apples, about 1,500 bags
of potatoes, and 150 boxes of oranges.

…and there is so much more!

In 2018 we will be working with Youth Now Farm to offer more young adults, with barriers to employment, the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to find and retain a job. We are also excited to have been granted funds to hire an employee to help the organizations in the Community Food Network to better address issues around food justice.

Thank you for helping us create a warm, healthy community hub where everyone is welcomed and valued.

Come visit us in 2018. We’d love to show you around!

Happy New Year!

How do you get kids to care about food and health problems in their neighbourhood?

Since the beginning of 2017, the Parkdale Food Centre has been offering (funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation) a food justice program for children in grades 4-6.

The goals of the program are to:

  1. Inspire students to understand the complex and interconnected problems of poverty, health and food insecurity in their neighbourhood.
  2. Engage students in understanding the problems being addressed by inviting them to bring forth their own ideas and opinions.
  3. Equip students to be “solutionaries” in their communities by providing entry points for action.

The program has seen great success and has attracted interest from all over the city. Some children who attend the program have become regular volunteers at the food centre and have a better awareness of how they can contribute to solving problems in their communities.

Read the full report here.

What do you see in this photo?

What do you see when you look at this photo? Bowls of steaming Salmon Chowder? Lunch? The hands of a child? Clean kitchen counters?  

When I see this photo I see #kindness and #caring – specifically the hands of #kindness and #caring.  


These hands belong to a young person who came to the Parkdale Food Centre to volunteer for a day during his School Holiday break.  He loves to cook, he idolizes Simon Bell the Kitchen Manager at Parkdale Food Centre, he loves to learn new things – like how to make biscuits or how to plate and present delicious meals to the many neighbours who need a hot meal on a very cold Ottawa day.  

On this very cold day he walked to and from the Parkdale Food Centre to volunteer his help because he cares and has a heart full of kindness towards the neighbours in his Community. He could have easily stayed home to play video games, watch TV or just hang out with his friends.  Instead he wanted to volunteer at Parkdale Food Centre and be part of a team in the kitchen giving back to the community.  He was there on Wednesday during one of the weekly Collective Kitchen workshops where neighbours gather and learn how to make delicious wholesome foods.  I was making Salmon Chowder and he helped me washing mounds of celery, and then peeling and cleaning big bowls of potatoes and carrots. He worked with Simon to produce the most delicious light and fluffy biscuits for lunch.  And after serving and sharing lunch with the neighbours he went back to peeling and cleaning carrots and potatoes.  That is what #kindness and #caring is all about.  That is what giving back to your community is all about.  That is why I was attracted to the Parkdale Food Centre – it’s because of the #kindness and #caring that is a big part of the everyday activities at Parkdale Food Centre.  

I started out supporting Parkdale Food Centre by donating money to the Thirteen Social Enterprise for their bus tickets; then I became part of the Thirteen Social Enterprise team preparing their weekly lunches and often taking them to the Markets to sell their products. All the while being exposed to how much Parkdale Food Centre does for their community; so it was just a natural decision to become a monthly donor.  Now I also help out every Wednesday with kitchen work and sometimes I help teach neighbours new skills.   

Don’t get me wrong, sure I am helping Parkdale Food Centre both financially and by volunteering in the kitchen, but this organization has given me back so much more.  I have a sense of community once again – something that I lost after I retired from a busy job as an Executive in the Government of Canada.  From the very first time I became involved with Parkdale Food Centre I felt this sense of being part of a larger community that gives back and does so much for their neighbours who, for whatever the reason, need extra support.  The #kindness and #caring atmosphere that I’m exposed to every time I enter Parkdale Food Centre makes me happy – I’m happy to know that my financial donations are turned around back to the local community to make the lives of the neighbours better. I’m happy that Parkdale Food Centre has provided an environment that encourages youth to be part of the community of giving back. The Youth today will be our future leaders and future organizers at Food Centres like Parkdale – I know that my financial contributions to Parkdale will ensure that the Youth continue to be involved and that the neighbours who need that little bit of extra support can continue to receive it.

I’m oh so happy to be part of this community of #kindness and #caring.  

Article by Deb Abbott.