Italian Cooking Workshop with Tom

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On October 7th, we hosted our monthly Italian cooking workshop with Tom Marcantonio. The kitchen was bustling with 12 in attendance and Sarah and Susan as the highly capable sous-chefs. Tom had people chopping, assembling and sampling a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and cheese. The menu featured a mushroom bruschetta, Italian wedding soup with meatballs, a mixed green salad, penne with chicken, olives and tomato sauce, and fresh cantaloupe for dessert. When everyone sat down to eat what they`d help prepare, the room suddenly went quiet—a sure sign that people were enjoying their meals!

Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped out, our neighbours who cooked and shared a wonderful meal, Tom who shared his culinary knowledge (and parsley from his garden), and John who did all of the washing up!

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A visit to Rideau Pines Farm

The day started out cool and overcast, but the sun emerged and it soon warmed up—a perfect fall day. It was a short bus ride out to North Gower where Rideau Pines Farm is located. For a lot of our neighbours, this is one of the few opportunities they`ll have to get out of the city and breathe in the fresh air and experience the serenity of the country.

We were greeted warmly by the Vandenbergs and given a tour of the fields. We soon got to work harvesting tomatoes, peppers, kale, peppers and leeks. Paul Vandenberg showed us how to harvest the vegetables and his brother, Matt, give us an enthusiastic demonstration on the different varieties of peppers (one of which had a rich brown hue and was called “chocolate”). We devoured peppers whole and juicy cantaloupe fresh off the vine. After picking tomatoes, leeks, and peppers, we stopped for lunch: sandwiches and muffins made by Parkdale Food Centre volunteers and apples from a local orchard.

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Once we got back to the centre, we counted all of the bags of food (10 garbage bags full of kale alone!) and our neighbours got to take home what they harvested. We froze a lot of the harvest to give out over the winter, we gave some to our neighbours and another food bank, and some went to highJinx to distribute in their neighbourhood.

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We`d like to thank Trillium and Rideau Pines Farm for giving our neighbours a chance to get out of the city, harvest food for themselves, taste truly fresh food, share recipes (thanks Amalia for the recipe on how to cook pumpkin leaves!), and contribute to their community in a meaningful way. We can`t wait for our next farm visit!

 

How we celebrated Our Trillium Grant Annoucement

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We knew we had to do something big to celebrate our amazing Trillium Grant.  Rather than a standard press conference announcement we “cooked up” something magical.  First we asked our neighbours who have attended cooking workshops to come in and help prepare some special appetizers. They worked with Chef Tom who hosts a monthly Italian Cooking workshop for us. Then we invited the chefs to come and be served appetizers from some of the very students they had worked with in previous Cooking Workshops. It was wonderful to see the pride in their faces as they saw the chefs tasting the delicious appetizers. It was a full circle moment where the students became the chefs!

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It was a great feeling to see the wide mix of PFC neighbours, local chefs, volunteers, Board members and many media attend the announcement.

For the actual announcement, Sherrie Franklin, a Board member from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and local MPP Yasir Naqvi, presented the Parkdale Food Centre with a two year $92,800 OTF grant. “Parkdale Food Centre is a community hub committed to promoting and building vibrant and active lifestyles. With this important financial support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, I am confident that they will build on their success and continue to provide healthy nutritious meals to vulnerable women, men and children in our community.” MPP Yasir Naqvi, Ottawa Centre

IMG_6922Don Flynn, Chair of the PFC presented Christine Earnshaw, a Board member and one two key grant writers (with Heather Hossie who couldn’t make the announcement but we delivered the flowers to her!) with bouquets of red roses to say thanks for all their hard work that went into the grant. He stated “We are all looking forward to launching the programs funded by this grant and making an even larger contribution to our neighbours in need and the wider community. Grants such as these allow us to try out new programs and continue to expand how we can help our neighbours.”

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Two of our business supporters, Sheila Whyte from Thyme & Again and Carley Schelck from Urban Element also spoke about how the new programs and the Community Kitchen at PFC have impressed them and inspired them to find new ways to help our neighbours. Many of the chefs took time from their busy days to come and speak to the media about their experiences working in our communal kitchen. Thanks to Patrick from Absinthe, Jason from Essence Catering, Darlene Personal Chef Sam from West End Well, and Jen from Foodieprints. We continue to be humbled about how much this community gives back and how the various business leaders and chefs find time to support our endeavours.

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The OTF grant includes many different components but one we are very excited to get going are some partnerships with local organizations including Hidden Harvest and the Dalhousie Food Cupboard. This investment will also support the organization in leading the establishment of an Ottawa Network for Community Food Banks. At PFC we always strive to do more and we are excited to take this next step in our evolution.

A Response to the CTV Interview

We are the Board of Directors for the Parkdale Food Centre. There was a recent interview by one of our local news programs about our approach to food at the Parkdale Food Centre. It has generated quite a lot of feedback and commentary within our community, as well as across the city and at the national level. You may have seen the interview during your nightly news broadcast, heard about it on the radio or read about it online.

The responses we have received from all across the country have been both positive and negative and we welcome that dialogue. We feel it would be helpful to share some information about our centre, why we do what we do, and why we’re so focused on presenting healthy food options to our clients.

We accept all donations, except expired, opened or badly dented containers. Our preference is for healthy wholesome foods and offer suggestions on our Good Food list. We receive generous support from the Ottawa Food Bank (OFB) and apologize for any confusion between our statements and the Ottawa Food Bank.  The OFB is our single largest supplier of donated food and we could not do what we do without their continued support. We also heavily rely on our local community partners, including businesses, Churches, schools and individuals for food or financial donations.

We understand that some may have taken offence at how the message of this interview was described and delivered, seeing it as a criticism of people’s personal choices versus an attempt to highlight an important issue on the lack of food choice and security. That was not the intent. A single headline should not define the Centre or the excellent work of our staff and many volunteers.  Our approach and beliefs are driven by the needs of our clients and donors who we talk a little more about, below.

At our core, we are driven by two obligations, one to our donors and one to those who rely on the Centre:

We have an obligation to our donors, those who support the Centre through monetary, service and food donations to spend the money we receive wisely, getting the best value while also offering the highest quality of food that we can.

We also have an obligation to those who rely on the Centre to provide them with healthy and nutritional food options. Many, given their financial constraints, struggle to purchase nutritional food, particularly as our centre is in an area of the city that is part of a food desert, with few options for affordable fresh produce and no large grocery stores. Many who rely on the Centre do not have the power to choose what to eat and unhealthy foods often make up the core of their daily diet rather than being just an occasional meal or a ‘treat’.

These two obligations are at the heart of how we operate, and resonate with both our donors and our clients. We are passionate about our work and believe in the power of healthy food to transform people’s lives and foster healthier, more connected communities. Our Crock Pot Cooking Classes, cooking workshops, communal meals and support of the Good Food Box are a few examples of how we are working, not just to stock shelves, but to build knowledge, skills and opportunities for the people who visit our Centre. Many local restaurants and chefs lead our cooking workshops, sharing their knowledge in cooking healthy and nutritional meals while providing our clients with the encouragement and skills for cooking meals at home. Our clients have also welcomed this approach to healthy eating and are now regular volunteers at the Centre and a number of them now assist and lead the activities. And probably the most important change we have seen has been the feedback from our clients on their improved health and well-being.

If you are interested in additional information about the Parkdale Food Centre please contact us at info@parkdalefoodcentre.org

– The Parkdale Food Centre Board of Directors

Reverse Food Truck Gets Lots of Love from PFC Neighbours

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Parkdale Food Centre coordinator Karen Secord, left, and Hintonburger owner Thomas Williams have teamed up to create a “reverse” food truck pilot program. David Kawai / Ottawa Citizen

You may have heard that we recently started something we like to call a reverse food truck with our (very generous) community partner, Hintonburger. In the off-season for their Hintonburger Express truck, we’ve taken it over with something different in mind than selling delicious food — we’re accepting it!

From July 18th to August 9th, we’ll be collecting fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, healthy non-perishables, and personal hygiene items like toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo at this unique location in the Hintonburger’s parking lot (1096 Wellington Street West) from 4 – 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. These donations will then be directly distributed to clients of the Parkdale Food Centre during the Centre’s regular operating hours.

In our first few evenings, we’ve already collected a fantastic number of donations. Thanks to everyone who has come out to visit, drop off items, and support the PFC!

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Tap Takeover and Dance Party at the HPH!

Two of our favourite PFC supporters, Beyond The Pale and the Hintonburg Public House are hosting a Tap Takeover and Dance Party at the HPH on Saturday August 9th – and we can’t wait!

With eight beers on tap for your perusal, a DJ dance party AND discounted pints of Beyond the Pale’s locally-brewed beers ALL NIGHT LONG, craft beer lovers and locals are sure to have a great time! Every hour there will be something special to look forward to PLUS there will be an interactive way to help your neighbours in need at the Parkdale Food Centre & win some tasty prizes. Fun starts at 8PM.

Visit the event page on Facebook for more details.

Fun for all at the Second Annual Parkdale Food Centre BBQ

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Yesterday we celebrated summer and our wonderful community! Continuing last year’s tradition, we hosted the second annual Parkdale Food Centre Summer BBQ in neighbouring Laroche Park. A beautiful day was made even better by teaming up with our community partners to deliver a magnificent BBQ for PFC clients.

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It was all sunshine and fun thanks to an enthusiastic group of volunteers in the kitchen, at the BBQ, serving, cleaning and hoola-hooping! Special thanks to the Merry Dairy for donating 170 servings of ice cream, Hintonburger for donating 100 of their famous burgers, Sue’s amazing Kitchen Team for mounds of pulled pork and countless bowls of salads and condiments, Hidden Harvest for their nut cracking demos, photographer Dwayne Brown and his Love Ottawa Project, Councillor Katherine Hobbs and her staff, the Salvation Army Transition House for music/setup/tear down, the Somerset West Community Health Centre, and Lorrie Marlow of the Mechanicsville Community Association. This day wouldn’t have been possible without any of you!

Photographer Dwayne Brown from Love Ottawa was on-hand to capture some incredible images of PFC clients, staff and friends with the trademark Love-Ottawa giant white canvas. He shared the photos, and some thoughts on the day over at love-ottawa.com.

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PFC 2nd Annual BBQ!

Back to Our Roots — A Gala to Remember!

On May 1st, the Parkdale Food Centre went “Back to Our Roots” as we hosted our first ever gala fundraiser at the Urban Element, located at 424 Parkdale Avenue. 424 Parkdale is the original site of the Parkdale Food Centre so the location holds many special memories for our volunteers and our community. It was the perfect location for our gala and Payton, Carley and the entire Urban Element team went above and beyond to help make the event a success!

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A spirit of generosity and friendship infused the evening as our volunteers, community partners and neighbours came together to help raise funds for the Centre’s healthy food programs. Renée Yoxon and Craig Pedersen created a relaxed vibe with their soulful renditions of some of our favourite jazz classics. We thank the Professional Entertainment Group for providing the PA system for us.  Also thank you to Partytime for all the rentals which they provided as a donation.

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Throughout the evening, our  “gala goers” were treated to some delicious treats thanks to our friends at The Urban Element, Supply & Demand, StoneSoup FoodWorks and of course Marvellous Marlene, from The Merry Dairy! There were also a delightful selection of desserts from the Flying Banzini, Cakes by Katz, and Strawberry Blonde.

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Beyond the Pale generously provided an array of delicious local brews and guests enjoyed a special delivery from Stratus’ Vineyards in Niagara on the Lake. Cheers!

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As guests mingled, snacked and enjoyed the music, they also had a chance to bid on a fantastic lineup of Silent Auction prizes. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of local business owners who provided great prizes to help us meet our fundraising target. Miv Photography, Renu Spa, the GCTC, Twiss & Weber, The Elmdale Oyster House, Whalesbone, Andrew King, Alison Fowler, Beyond the Pale, the NAC, Gallery 3, CAA and essence Catering were just a few of the generous donors who provided prizes for the auction. The bidding was brisk & competitive.  We had many happy prize winners at the end of the night!

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Jim Watson stopped by to surprise us during the evening.

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It was a fantastic evening and thanks to everyone’s support, enthusiasm and contributions, we were able to surpass our fundraising goal and raise over $12,000 in one night!  Now that’s a reason to smile!  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.

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It was our first foray into a large scale event and overall we were overwhelmed with offers to help and advice on how to proceed.  Thanks again to our hosts at the Urban Element, we felt the magic in the venue.

February’s Crock Pot Cooking Workshop

We knew Darlene loved to cook and it was well demonstrated on February 20th, 2014 when Darlene Best unleashed her Mexican Fiesta. What better way to cure the cold winter blues with some great Mexican Enchiladas, fresh made Guacamole and Salad? It was the perfect cure.

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One thing we are getting very good at here is chopping. And there was lots of it going on. Cilantro, peppers and of course, the avocados.

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Darlene started with a well seasoned tomato sauce that included chili, cumin, oregano, coriander and garlic. As the sauce simmered filling the kitchen with a rich aroma, everyone’s appetites quickly increased.

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We next focused on the enchilada fillings which were surprisingly simple. Chopped up chicken thighs with the red and jalapeno peppers and some seasoning were fried and set aside as we got ready for the real work.

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The real work is stuffing and rolling all those enchiladas. And for the large hungry group (remember that great tomato sauce aroma) that was a lot of enchiladas. Darlene helped set up the production line and then we got right into it.

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A team effort soon had the first pan filled and waiting for some more sauce before going into the oven.

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After that, it was time for the guacamole which of course involves more chopping, only this time it was avocados. The avocados were no match for the Parkdale Food team.  They were soon chopped, scooped, mashed and seasoned. The lettuce salad followed next.

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Just as we finished preparing the guacamole and salad, the enchiladas which had been covered in cheese and baked were ready and taken out of the oven. That delicious smell said it was time to eat.

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And eat we did.  Hot enchiladas, fresh guacamole, a light tossed salad and of course, the great Parkdale Food team that helped with the preparation and cooking also helps with the meal.

A big thanks to Darlene Best for a great cooking workshop!

J.J.’s Generosity

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I met J.J.’s mother at a Taste of Wellington last summer. I was a woman on a mission, spreading the word about poverty and food insecurity in an increasingly affluent Wellington West and Hintonburg. She was innocently trying to nab a free but famous mini Flying Banzini cheesecake.

Months later she was at our door with a wide-eyed J.J. He came to ask me a question. “What can I do to help,” he said somewhat shyly.

I knew he had already done the most important thing…he showed interest.

J.J. listened while I spoke about poverty and poor nutrition, the horror of old school food banking and the joy to be had in sharing. We talked about the meaning of empathy and the importance of caring for others.

J.J.’s father is a dentist. He immediately offered toothbrushes. My eyes lit up because toothbrushes are expensive and when forced to choose between buying whole foods or toothbrushes, real food always wins out.

Last week J.J. turned 10. He remembered what his mother had told him about hunger in his neighbourhood. “I didn’t really need anything,” he told me as his mother handed me a cheque for $120 –the proceeds from his no-present birthday party.

I’m smiling in this photo. But inside I am doing cartwheels.