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.


The ‘Growing Futures’ project at Connaught Public School

My wife, Joan, and I had high expectations when we went to observe a grade 4-5 class learn and work on their Growing Futures project that was already underway.  Nevertheless, we came away from the experience two hours later astounded by what we had witnessed.  The centrepiece in the classroom was the project’s ‘food tower’ which was lush with lettuce and herbs growing out of pockets on its sides.IMG_0833

The Project Manager and cheerleader for the project in this and other Ottawa schools is Sue Hall.  She has already successfully introduced the Growing Futures in two Connaught School classes, and in other Ottawa schools, with more to come.  She does not hide her excitement.

The teacher of the class of about 20 kids, was Michele Richardson.  Joan and I had grown up in the days when teachers’ lectured, with students only lightly engaged.  Here, virtually all 20 students participated with questions and suggestions, and excitement – they clearly loved this class.  The nature of the project was key to this, but so was Ms. Richardson, who gently controlled the proceedings.  On this day there was another central person, Wentsi Yeung, owner of Culture Kombucha which produces and wholesales a healthy drink that is sold in local stores.  The kids listened closely to the description of her operations, including how she soIMG_0836ld product, the production process, and a lot more.  Questions and suggestions flowed from the kids (“how much do you pay your staff”; “why don’t you use a food truck”).  The kids were clearly learning a lot about how to grow food, nutrition values, keeping financial records, and how to work as a group, etc.  Next they will be learning about marketing.  Significantly, Wentsi Yeung is also the class’s business partner.  As this class closed she bought all the food tower’s herbs, while the kids cut off the lettuce for use in their lunches that day.  New plants will be introduced into the tower the next class.

This experience will make a small but enduring difference in the development of these children.  Joan and I were grateful to observe a part of that experience.

What Public Relations Students learned at the Parkdale Food Centre


Our journey with the Parkdale Food Centre started in late September 2016. Myself and six of my amazing Algonquin College public relations (ACPR) colleagues were put to the test to find a local charity who we would be representing for the purpose of our term-long charity pitch assignment.

While choosing a charity to represent may seem like no easy feat, we as a team were set on working alongside an organization that continually strives for a better future with less poverty, hunger, and illness in our communities. We all firmly believe in and value the importance of food but even more, we understand healthy food as being an essential part to living free of significant stress and sickness. Food is a powerful common denominator that unites us all as people. What is fascinating (and unfortunate) about this, is that despite the fact that food is a very basic necessity to us all, not everyone is fortunate enough to have consistent access to nutritional food. So, our group quickly reached out to Parkdale, a charity who we felt understood this struggle more than most.


Parkdale is about more than just food. While providing healthy food to neighbours in need is certainly the foundation of this charity, they are about so much more. Under one roof, Parkdale combines a warm and inviting sense of community and support for all neighbours in need. They work each day to provide skills that educate and empower their neighbours to be able to provide fresh and wholesome meals for themselves and their families. They continuously strive to create and maintain this community, encouraging everyone to work together to create nutritious meals that can be shared and enjoyed amongst neighbours from all walks of life.

13Muesli’s Young October

Written By: Ghita, Keren, Fatouma and Sarah

Included in Thirteen: A Social Enterprise’s grant t1his year from their anonymous donor was some money to help them to run 4 events to showcase other social enterprises and youth-run businesses. The 4 members of the 2015-2016 Thirteen team who stayed on to become youth mentors for the 2016-2017 team have become the organizers of these events.

Our first show called Young October took place at the Parkdale Food Centre on Oct 29 from 10 AM – 3PM. As youth mentors, we were responsible for advertising, inviting vendors, shopping for supplies & ingredients, and decorating. All of this on top of being the leaders for the departments that are run by our 9 new Muesli members! We were able to show off our leadership skills, organization skills, and learned how to budget for an event with help from our inspiring Team Leader, Sarah Stewart, as well as the awesome Eliza Von Baeyer from the widely-popular local holiday event ‘Craftalicious’.

The opportunity to run our own show was something the 2015 – 2016 team was interested in, but the opportunity did not rise until now. We are thrilled to be able to present these events!

Young October had multiple goals:

1. To give exposure to young entrepreneurs and social enterprises from the Ottawa area (who are all amazing!)

2. To get some of the Muesli parents involved in the program

3. To prove that youth are responsible and capable of running their own show

4. And finally to raise funds and awareness to the Parkdale Food Centre who we are under the umbrella of and who has provided us with a space to work plus endless support.

Our awesome vendor line-up included:

Spoonlickers Vegan Bakery: This social enterprise is run by two spunky elementary school3 aged girls who love animals. They sell delicious vegan cookies that they bake with their parents. Proceeds from their cookie sales go to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. We love the initiative that is taken by these two young ladies. It’s a work of art to see them work together and interact with their customers.

Our show was their very first show and they BLEW US AWAAAAAAAAAAY!!

SuraiTea: This new local company presents Syrian refugees with the opportunimg_2534-1ity to make and sell loose-leaf tea. Their goal is to create positive social change for new refugees by giving them the chance to be part of a growing business, acquire experience, business knowledge, and enter the Canadian work force. The jobs are offered to those who need it most, plus their tea is an amazing quality product! SuraiTea is also the 2016 winner of the Ottawa Social Impact Award (in the Social Enterprise Catergory) and we could not be happier for them!

5Cake Lab: There wouldn’t be muesli without Jo-Ann Laverty, the owner of Cake Lab! Jo-Ann has supported us from the very beginning of our project with her savvy business skills, patience and job- skills training and has been a regular volunteer mentor. She is also a huge supporter and volunteer for the Parkdale Food Centre. Her company Cake Lab makes sourdough cakes in a jar that are mouth-watering. We didn’t think twice about inviting her to be part of our first show!

Culture Kombucha: Wentsi Yeung is another one of our business friends. Her company 4makes delicious raw and organic sparkling probiotic tea brewed locally in small batches. She is a regular volunteer with Thirteen Muesli who has helped us streamline our production and packaging as well as helped Parkdale

Food Centre in so many other ways!

Food & Finance: This is another program that runs under the umbrella of the Parkdale Food Centre that is the brainchild of the awesome Karen Secord. It allows youth in schools and community centres to discover the food and finance world thanks to plants that are grown with the Tower Garden.

A Tower Garden is a hydroponic tower that grows fruits and vegetables. At our show, the harvested greens that were sold were grown with these Tower Gardens! The project is run by Sue Hall who is THE BEST HUMAN EVER. Sue Hall is a holistic nutritionist who is on the Parkdale Food Centre Board of Directors. She also works with the Thirteen team as a very committed volunteer mentor. She has been there for us since the beginning of muesli time. She has supported us, volunteered countless hours, mentored us and keeps us on our feet (and away from unnecessary sugar!).

Saralynimg_2531 Lichty Knitting: Saralyn is a regular volunteer at the Parkdale Food Centre. Not only that but a huge supporter of our program! She went as far as donating 50% of her sales at our show directly to the food centre. Her products are adorable! We can really tell she likes what she’s doing and that is awesome and inspiring for us to see!

The Muesli Moms: OUR 2MOMS ARE THE OGs. The moms of the 4 youth mentor team members were able to show the community their amazing cooking skills in what we called the ‘Muesli Mom Café’. We loved to see our mothers working together in the kitchen and help each other prep their different meals and plate them together for their customers. Our mothers volunteer together on a regular basis at the Parkdale Food Centre, and so our show was the cherry on top of their foodie friendship. WE LOVE YOU MOMS!

We can’t wait to host our next event Young February (more details to come!). Be sure to check it out and support some more fantastic young entrepreneurs and social enterprises!

A New Approach for an Experienced Social Worker

Hello! My name is Christine and I have been a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) placement student with the Parkdale Food Centre since the beginning of September 2016.

profile-picIt became clear to me on my first day of working at PFC that, in the words of Dorothy; “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore”!  The Food Centre broke the mold I was comfortable working in.  You see, I came to this placement with more than a decade of experience working in the field of social services, most recently food security.  Although I was very comfortable working from a person-centred approach, I never have been in a place where the volunteers, staff and clients are blended so well that you can’t tell who is who on most days.  Yes, there are name tags for volunteers but neighbours (clients) are also volunteers, so it is normal to see them in leadership roles.  Though this approach to service was new to me, I have adapted and can comfortably say I wouldn’t work in food security with any other approach than the one used here at PFC.  Simply, the people receiving the services need to be involved in the creation and running of them.  No one knows what they and their families need better than the person coming to the Food Centre for services. It makes sense that they are the ones in the kitchen helping to cook and clean and they are the ones stocking the shelves and helping their neighbours shop for their monthly allotment of groceries.

In my short stint at Parkdale, I think my heart has been opened as well as my mind.  I look at things from a glass half full perspective now as this is how I see the team’s (neighbours, volunteers and staff) approach is here.  No one is alone when they walk through Parkdale’s doors.  There is a team waiting to meet you where you are at and get you to where you want to go, all the while helping you to have a full belly of healthy food that always has an extra serving of love added to it.

To donate to the Parkdale Food Centre, please click 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 canned soup, 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. Socks, soup and additions 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.

Give your time
Another way to give is to get involved as a volunteer. Our volunteers help with everything from stocking shelves, leading workshops, the collective kitchen, and even running our website. Do you have some time or skills to lend? Learn more about how to get involved on our Volunteers page.

Locally Grown Gourmet Lettuce?

by Sue Hall

Have you heard of growing food without soil?

Have you heard about kids/youth caring for a garden right in their own classroom, community centre or community house?

Well, that is exactly what we are doing! Food and
Finance: Growing Futures
, is a project that is engaging our children and the youth of our community. When you partner them up with local businesses, and you have a new geneimg_2181ration of healthy, entrepreneurial children that are excited to share their experiences with family and friends.

The Food and Finance: Growing Futures Project was born from an idea that the Director of PFC, Karen Secord had one day. She realized that when it comes to middle class habits around food, there was a gap between what people think they should be doing versus what people are actually doing. Every parent wants to feed their children healthy wholesome foods, but for many reasons it doesn’t always happen.

She realized that if we bring in the children and get them excited about eating healthy at an early age, then change becomes easier. Not only eating healthier, but teaching kids real life skills to make a healthier, happier, and more employment ready generation.

img_1878So how are we doing this? Bring in the Tower Gardens! Tower Gardens are state-of- the-art vertical aeroponic growing systems that can be set up indoors with a very small footprint. The Tower can grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and many different kinds of fruit in less time than it takes in soil.

From seeds, to seedlings, to planting, to harvesting, kids are taking ownership and pride in growing their own food. As a Holistic Nutritionist and Project Manager of this venture, I have experienced firsthand how many children, using the Tower Garden in various schools, community houses, or community centre, have embraced this project with open arms and now open mouths as they harvest their gardens!

The Tower Gardens are located in 3 schools, 2 community houses, a community centre and a food bank where teachers and youth workers have embraced this project. Children as young as 4 years old to the age of 14 are growing, cooking, marketing and selling. I have witnessed an increase in appetite and the desire not only to eat healthy, but to share with others.

Local business owners are also on board! Sheila Whyte, Owner of Thyme & Again, Wentzi Yeung, Owner of Culture Kombucha, and Jo Ann Laverty, Owner of Cake Lab have partnered with Fisher Summit, Connaught PS, and Devonshire PS respectively. Business owners and students together are working together to share knowledge and cultivate curiosity. Students understand that this partnership with the Food and Finance Project is a rare learning opportunity, and are proud to be part of the success of this program will no doubt have for them as individuals, and for the community. These opportunities are life changers!

Each location site has a different  story. Matt Herrington, grade 7 math teacher at Fisher Summit, has used the tower garden to teach place img_2123value to his students. He writes,

One student’s experience  struck me as unique. This student had struggled for an entire 50 minute period to understand place value (how ones, tens, hundreds, work). She was stumped and my heart ached for her. So, during our next period when I introduced the Garden Log’s and saw her face light up, mostly because she was eager to explore the garden, but also because she understood this meant a short reprieve from the dreaded study of place value; Or so she thought!

She took her journal to the garden and decided to record the initial height of each plant. At one point she called me over to inquire about how to record ‘five and a half’ centimetres on the page: “How do you write a 39 and a half sir?” Using ten linking cubes, put together as one whole, I asked her separate the whole into 2 equal groups. She quickly took the whole apart and had two groups of 2. I then asked her, “What did you do to that whole?” She responded, “I broke it in half.”

So we then looked back at her paper and the lonely 5 recorded there, and I asked, “so, what does a 39 and a half look like?” She looked at the linking cubes and at the 5 on her page and quickly wrote, 5.5cm. When she made this realization her smile reflected a sense of contentedness, of accomplishment, and a warmth slowly lit her eyes. She went back to the garden and kept recording plant heights. Math hurdle cleared with a little help from the dill growing in our garden.  Awesome!

Salad Bowl Day Lunch at Devonshire PS with teacher Stephen Skoutajan and his grade five students. Students filled their plates with gourmet lettuce just harvested from their tower.
A lesson in dicing and cutting other veggies brought in from outdoor gardens, added an extra punch of nutrition and taste.

Connaught PS, grade 4/5 class, teacher Michelle Richardson – prepping their harvest on a field trip to the Parkdale Food Centre, to be creatively displayed as a Mason Jar Salad with Chef Simon Bell to surprise family at the evening meal.

Dovercourt Community Centre with their after school youth program, harvested 2,700 grams of fresh gourmet lettuce!
img_2138 The youth went on to prepare 18 bags of lettuce, 150 grams per bag, sold for $4.00 per bag. The $72.00 earned will go back into their program for field trips and other educational tools.

This is just the beginning. Food and Finance: Growing
, is a program that will not only provide wholesome food to our youth, but it will spark desire to eat healthier in life and to understand the importance of food. The children and youth will learn and see the connection between healthy bodies and healthy minds, energy and happiness. They will appreciate healthy food and the connections it is bringing to them in their communities. Confidence around financial literacy will instil the power in our younger generation to follow their dreams and become the entrepreneurs of the future.


What I learned from a day at the Parkdale Food Centre

By Brett Serjeantson (member of Parkdale Food Centre board)

When I first came to the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC) in 2006, it was located on the corner of Somerset and Bayswater, where Hintonburg and Little Italy intersect.
I really had no inclination to interact with clients when I first volunteered. For me it was more about unloading the truck and stocking shelves. The anonymity and routine helped to take my mind off of life, while at the same time trying to make a difference.
img_9388-1 Back then, we had to carry food supplied from the Ottawa Food Bank by hand and navigate boxes and crates downstairs. At the time a good back was worth as much as any sunny disposition with clients. But times at the PFC have changed, and for the better.
The PFC’s new Rosemount location is much more central, the facilities are amazing, and unloading the Food Bank truck is now a lot less challenging thanks to the Rosemount elevator. No more navigating down treacherous stairs with heavy boxes.
The emphasis is now where it should be – on clients and volunteers.
That means a greater emphasis on relationships, and ensuring an enjoyable and respectful experience for everyone involved.
But those aren’t the only recent changes.
Over a month ago, PFC Chair Len Fardella asked board members to meet with clients and help them directly with their food requirements. For someone like me, who was essentially a stock boy, it was eye-opening in the extreme.
That’s because no client fits the same profile. Some are single, some are families, some can’t work, some are new to the country. They all had their own unique, yet challenging, situation.
One last thing that was also very apparent was the prevalence of mental health issues.
Mental health has entered the consciousness of our society more than ever before, and there’s now less of a stigma on mental illness than ever. However, we’re all learning to be more accepting and conscientious of the possible causes.
While volunteering that day, I asked myself: how much does a proper diet and hunger affect all of our mental states? 
I, for one, can attest hat having the opportunity to interact with others did wonders for my own mental disposition.
That said, everyone I spoke with after meeting with clients were grateful for the PFC and its volunteers. Clients also pitched in to help one another, and if a volunteer needed help (like myself), they even offered their assistance.
Perspective is a great thing and I was grateful of having the opportunity to be part of the day in the life of the Parkdale Food Centre.

Contact Brett on Twitter – @BSerjeantson