Open Letter on the Urban Boundary Extension

Attn: Councillor Jann Harder, Planning Committee Chair

While our City Council prepares to vote on the urban boundary extension, our elected representatives must make their decision on how this will impact Ottawa’s most vulnerable residents. The boundary extension, and resulting suburban sprawl, will have an adverse impact on Ottawa’s affordable housing, homelessness, and social services for decades to come.

As a food centre and City of Ottawa agency, the Parkdale Food Centre team is constantly meeting people grappling with the real life effects of municipal policy. While our city leaders fail to build enough affordable housing, we have neighbours bouncing from shelter to shelter – with many spending nights on the streets. Due to a lack of social housing for families, our city places homeless families in cramped and derelict motel rooms – without their own basic kitchen – for years on end. And when many of our neighbours can’t put food on the table, in part due to skyrocketing rental prices, they are forced to depend on food charities in order to survive.

Extending the urban boundary will stretch our services and infrastructure to an untenable point, weaken our social safety net, and trap people further into the cycle of poverty. As an organization running a food bank, we know this isn’t morally right.

Moreover, it is fundamentally unjust to adopt policies without adequate consultation of equity-seeking groups. Detrimental housing policies place a disproportionate strain on marginalized communities, including people living in poverty, racialized communities, immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and women. With Ontario Works and Disability paying rates far below the poverty line, we know that the state of housing in Ottawa rising to a fever pitch will greatly impact marginalized communities.

The act of extending the urban boundary, especially without radically transforming our housing policies, will push low-income residents further away from transit and social services while stretching city
infrastructure past its limits. To rectify this situation, today we join our partner agency, the Somerset West Community Health Centre, in proposing the following steps to alleviate poverty in Ottawa.

The Ottawa City Council must adopt the following measures:

  1. Pass a strong citywide inclusionary zoning by-law that ensures 25% of new development is dedicated to affordable housing and places a special emphasis on deeply affordable housing within 1 km of rapid transit stations;
  2.  Ensure that all available government-owned land within 1 km of current & future rapid transit stations is used for non-profit and co-op housing (and that the City provide land to the newly established Land Trust in Ottawa specifically for affordable housing near rapid transit);
  3. The City of Ottawa should commit at least $20 million/year of City funding, over and above federal and provincial grants, to build new affordable housing near rapid transit stations

Each council vote that touches housing policy provides us with the chance to build a city that is working towards ending poverty – or slip further away from this goal. And with the sky-high rental prices in our city, we can’t afford to wait any longer. In 2020, it’s past time for our City Council to respect that housing is a human right.

Regards,

Karen Secord, Executive Director of the Parkdale Food Centre

Deb Abbott, Chair of the Parkdale Food Centre Board of Directors

Cc Mayor Jim Watson

 

To download a pdf of this letter, please click here.

NEW! Cooking for a Cause Ottawa

By Karen Secord

Covid-19 has amplified food insecurity; meal programs that our most vulnerable neighbours have relied on for nourishment are now closed or functioning with greatly reduced capacity; a once a month “hamper” from a food bank has never been enough; and an onslaught of rapid unanticipated layoffs in the food sector have left many unemployed and/or at risk of losing their businesses.

Parkdale Food Centre, as the lead organization in both the Ottawa Community Food Partnership (OCFP) and FoodRescue.ca (Ottawa), acted quickly to respond to this dual need – food and income security – by leveraging the incredible food industry expertise of our many partners and asking them to make delicious take-home food for outreach workers to deliver to the people who need it most. 

Our mission has been two-fold – to provide people with wholesome food outside of the once a month offerings from food banks and to help food businesses operate during a time that might otherwise be financially devastating. To test the model several businesses began by initiating “GoFundMe” campaigns and using that money to bake bread, make soup and cook take-home meals. Erica, our OCFP Coordinator, created a weekly schedule for pickup and delivery by nurses, community developers, mental health workers, city staff and outreach workers. 

“I have been delivering meals and soups to isolated seniors and they have never eaten so well,” Anne Vilijeon, SWCHC nurse told us  after delivering meals from The Red Apron and soup from Wellington GastroPub. “They say it is delicious.”

At Cornerstone Housing For Women food insecurity is not uncommon. Many of the women go to both the Westboro Region Food Bank and Parkdale Food Centre. This project has meant that they are enjoying fresh bread, baked in the morning and delivered in the afternoon, and that they have prepared meals in the freezer.

Across the city the Heron Road Emergency Food Centre is accepting hearty soups from Marcie’s Cafe, owned by well-known businesswoman, JoAnn Laverty. She quickly ramped up production to provide food for anyone in need in the St. Laurent-Walkley Road corridor and has started stocking the freezers at the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard

We now have 20 social service agencies and 10 food businesses working on the project. Chefs that would have been cooking for a special event are now making hundreds of meals for the safe consumption site at Somerset West Community Health Centre, men at the John Howard Society, or homeless youth.

Within one week of the Covid-19 shutdown we were Cooking for a Cause. Today we delivered 750 meals, 250 litres of soup and 250 loaves of sourdough bread.  This is what community support looks like.

 

Be A Community Influencer!!

By Karen Secord

How do we create change? Is it better if change is slow, measured and proceeds only incrementally, or should we “rip the bandaid off” with confidence and face the consequences?

One thing is for sure: no change happens without making people – at least some people – uncomfortable.

Perhaps this is why so many of us have done so little about the injustices that have been right in front of us. Why, I find myself wondering, has it taken a worldwide pandemic to open our eyes to the gaping holes in our failing social safety net.

What will our society look like when we start to reintroduce ourselves to each other; when we begin to move about more freely, embrace with abandon, kiss cheeks with European flare, hold hands, sit beside each other at meetings, gather in a park for a picnic?

Parkdale Food Centre has always been committed to working within a human rights framework when it comes to food security. Good food that nourishes your body is a basic human right. We have questioned food charity and what kind of society we are when more and more people find themselves without the means to feed themselves or find adequate housing.

I would say that Parkdale Food Centre is a “Community Influencer”. And if you are a donor or a volunteer or a supporter in another way, then you too are likely a “Community Influencer”.

To me, a “Community Influencer” is someone who is not afraid to ask: why? They are interested in conversations that tackle root problems and explore  new ways of seeing an old problem. An “influencer” is willing to take a chance on a new way of doing something as long as it fits with their basic values; in the case of PFC those values would be kindness, health, community, caring, and equity.

We Know You Want to Help Us!

By: Karen Secord

Never has it been more true that more hands make light work. Trust us, we want your helping hands! However, Covid-19 has forced us to step back and re-evaluate how best to engage with volunteers during these unprecedented times. For everyone’s safety we have sought expert advice and we are committed to following it, no matter how much we miss you.

By now we all know the rules; they are ingrained in our minds. We must not be any closer than six feet to someone we do not live with and there should not be more than five people assembled together. Clearly, we recognized early on, it is not possible to have any more than five staff in our space, pack orders and safely obey the physical distancing rules. We also realized that delivering food using very strict protocols is the only way to keep everyone safe.

Sadly, age plays a significant role in the types of jobs we might engage volunteers in. Ottawa Public Health has been quite clear in their directive that anyone immune-compromised or over the age of 70, should stay home for their own safety. Volunteer Ottawa refers to younger volunteers as doing “COVID-19 Light Touch Volunteering”- jobs that can be performed with minimal contact, such as pick-up and delivery services for vulnerable individuals.

For our volunteers that are over 55 jobs could include: 

  • Write notes of encouragement to our neighbours who are living in isolation;
  • Engage in phone calls with our neighbours who are living in isolation and would like a phone call from time to time;
  • Grow vegetables in their gardens for PFC to distribute during Food Bank;
  • Establish the PFC Garden – conduct a spring clean, weed and prepare the beds for planting, plant seedlings, plants, etc. and maintain the gardens; and
  • Write to MPs to lobby for additional funding for Food Banks.
  • Raise funds within your networks, perhaps using an online platform, so that we can continue to offer our neighbours extra food to get them through this challenging time.

If any of these jobs appeal to you please email: heather@parkdalefoodcentre.org

Helping Women Eat Well During Covid-19

By Jessie-Lee Wallace

Cornerstone Housing for Women

Cornerstone Housing for Women is deeply grateful to the Parkdale Food Centre for their leadership, and their generous, innovative and kind-hearted support.

Cornerstone runs the only emergency shelter unique to women experiencing homelessness in Ottawa, plus four supportive housing communities, and an outreach program.

They help 200 women each day, over 600 women on a yearly basis find hope and home.

The charity has two licensed kitchens at their emergency shelter, and at their Booth St. location that cares for senior women with chronic ailments.

 

With COVID19, their locations, especially their Princeton independent living residents faced food insecurity issues. Parkdale Food Centre was there to help.

Each Cornerstone location moved to single food delivery instead of communal eating to contain the spread of the virus.  

This increase of single food delivery, and sourcing meals to locations that previously did not have a food program, became very challenging to the organization as its resources were stretched thin at the beginning of the pandemic.

The ‘Cooking for a Cause’ program led by Parkdale, helped us to give hundreds of nutritious, delicious meals, cooked by gifted restaurants and businesses to at-risk women.

The first delivery to our Princeton location was met by three eager residents that had been waiting in the lobby. One woman named Nancy* asked, “ is this for us?” She had tears in her eyes and a look of relief on her face.

Every person in Ottawa, especially our most vulnerable people deserve access to nutritious food. With Parkdale Food Centre’s help we are able to provide that to our community.

*name changed to protect privacy

When School is out Household Food Costs Soar

The Ottawa Network for Education’s (ONFE) School Breakfast Program provides more than 13,500 free, nutritious meals to students every school day across the city of Ottawa. Today, these students are not receiving this daily meal. Since the announcement of extended public-school closures, ONFE has been in contingency planning mode. They launched a strategy that has allowed them to continue supporting students and families during school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic by working with their partners to deliver boxes of shelf stable food. We began receiving these boxes for distribution several weeks ago. They contained: 

  • Items from 3 food groups (including fresh fruit and 2% milk (tetrapack), cereal, wholegrain crackers, unsweetened applesauce, granola bars etc)
  • Peanut free

In collaboration with the Somerset West Community Health Centre, and thank to funding from Mealshare, Simon and Anna committed to adding to the nutritional content of those boxes for the 40 families for whom we would normally be providing after-school meals. Now when these boxes are delivered every Wednesday to the family’s home they also contain some Parkdale Food Centre favourites: homemade granola and muffins, cheese, yogurt, a sandwich and veggies and dip.

 

It seems like just yesterday when we had our Annual General Meeting and we were celebrating the many accomplishments of the previous year, especially those of the youth in our community.  You may recall that when I spoke as the new Chair of the Board of Directors, I mentioned that PFC would be embarking on strategic planning to provide us with a vision to take us to the years 2021/22.  After a busy summer, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on the progress. 

We have hired a consultant to help us with this project – Urooj Qureshi.  Urooj is the Founder of Designed Centred Company and came to us recommended by CSED (Centre for Social Enterprise Development).  Some of you may have met him either at PFC or at our annual Bar-B-Que. He is working with our Strategic Planning Committee, which is comprised of Christine Earnshaw and myself from our Board of Directors, and Karen Secord, Alissa Campbell and Meagan McVeigh from the PFC staff.  

We started out in early June with a combined Board and Staff Retreat to talk about our goals and objectives and to put on paper all our ideas of where we see ourselves in three years from now. It was a busy day and we all came away filled with excitement around how we see PFC transforming and growing to meet the needs of our neighbours and growing community.  

More recently Urooj has held Focus Groups with our neighbours and volunteers, and is now interviewing many of our community partners to capture their input and to ensure that we have a broad set of opinions to consider as we develop  our Strategic Plan and Vision. After these sessions are complete we will regroup as a Committee to begin to put pen to paper.  

Strategic Planning is more than “wish lists”, it means that we (the PFC Board and Staff) will need to make choices and establish priorities.  We need to be open to new ideas and concepts, and be inclusive to our partners, community, city, volunteers and most importantly our neighbours.  Our new Strategic Plan will give us the opportunity to create a shared vision for the future of Parkdale Food Centre.  

We anticipate finishing the Strategic Plan and an Implementation Plan by the late fall.  This is an ambitious schedule but we are all committed to moving forward quickly so that all of you in the PFC Community can see our Vision and be part of our Strategic Plan and transformation.  

Should any of you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at deb@parkdalefoodcentre.org

Kind regards, 

Deb 

Chair Parkdale Food Centre,

   Board of Directors

We’re planning the next three years!

Strategic planning for the next three years at Parkdale Food Centre is underway! We are excited to be working with Design Centred Co. to create a vision and strategic direction that align with our values and our community needs. We are asking big questions about our role in the community and what the future holds. How we can be our best possible self? How can we contribute to our community in a way that honours our values of inclusiveness, participation, leadership, health and innovation? An important step in this process of strategic reflection is engaging our community and listening. Your thoughts are needed, valuable and welcome.

We will be engaging our stakeholders in numerous ways, one of which is the survey below. If you are connected to us in any way at all, please share your thoughts with us by answering the questions below. This survey should take 20-25 minutes, and your responses are completely anonymous.

Introducing…..our newest team members!

Tamara’s passion for food was ignited when she was given her first cookbook on her 10th birthday. She has been making people smile with her food ever since. She loves baking with sourdough, growing vegetables and creating vegan versions of her family’s favourite dishes. She comes to Parkdale Food Centre after years of cooking in restaurants and cafes around Ottawa. She is working as Coordinator for Thirteen: A Social Enterprise and is excited to be working towards community empowerment through food.

 

 

 

Karin Freeman is a new resident of Ottawa who came to the Parkdale Food Centre looking to build new community in a meaningful way. She is very excited to be filling in for Elle this summer as the Growing Futures Coordinator! She will help lead Solutionary Workshops in schools to engage students in solving big community problems around Food Justice. As a new, small-scale, organic farmer she believes in the positive impact of exposing people to good food and the value of sharing meals and conversations with others. Don’t be surprised if she has a little dirt under her fingernails from time-to-time!

We’re Hiring! DEADLINE EXTENDED: Sunday May 12th

We are recruiting a social justice-oriented candidate to play a lead role in a 14 month project to support transformative changes and build capacity of members of the Ottawa Community Food Partnership. The ideal candidate will be well-versed in food security issues and is at ease developing and supporting relationships across a number of stakeholder groups. The Coordinator will work both independently and in collaboration with our team, helping to drive multi-faceted projects forward. The position will be based out of the Parkdale Food Centre location with frequent travel and work at other sites throughout the network.

Responsibilities include

    • Coordinating internal communications within the partnership to ensure members are informed of member news, programming, challenges, and desired training/support.
    • Ensuring grant management and reporting occurs in a timely fashion
    • Reviewing and directing communications activities relating to the partnership
    • Ensure the deliverables of active grants are met; including:
      • Coordinating collaborative training opportunities;
      • Creating tools for collective advocacy work;
      • Identifying tools and facilitating partnerships for donations of fresh food;
      • Increasing fundraising capacity and donor communication tools; 
      • Developing partnerships to support gleaning
    • Supporting members in:
      • Developing Good Food Policies
      • Procuring infrastructure for perishable foods and processing
      • Integrating more demos/workshops/gardens

Qualifications

  • Experience in community-based/non-profit organizations with direct experience planning or coordinating program operations.
  • Demonstrated capacity to develop a network with multiple partners;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of online tools to support learning, community-building, and mobilization.
  • Keen attention to detail and strong organizational abilities.
  • Leadership and initiative, tact, diplomacy, and creativity.
  • Strong interest in community food security
  • Strong coalition-building and facilitation skills
  • A flexible and collaborative spirit
  • Excellent oral and written communication
  • G Class Drivers License and use of personal vehicle

This position is part-time (21 hours per week) compensated at an annual salary range of $40,000 – $44,000 pro-rated.

To apply please send your CV and Cover Letter to Alissa Campbell at alissa@parkdalefoodcentre.org. In your cover letter, be sure to tell us your professional goals and share with us your approach to facilitating organizational change.  The deadline to apply in Sunday May 12th