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.

This report keeps us up at night

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

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

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

Read the whole report here.

Help your neighbours this holiday season

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

Set up a Monthly Donation

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

Make a One Time Donation

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

Donate in person

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

Contribute to our annual Soup & Socks campaign

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

Sponsor a Family for the Holidays

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

Should I donate my excess Halloween candy?

This morning it begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Alissa Campbell

Beyond the street (2017 Campaign)



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

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

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

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

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

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