Dovercourt WAVE Program runs their own Growing Futures Franchise

One of the projects of the Parkdale Food Centre is Growing Futures, a social enterprise that uses innovative growing systems to produce, market and sell fresh produce.

One of the participants is the Dovercourt WAVE Program, an autism program for adults. They have been running a franchise for the last seven months and here is what they have to say:

My favourite part about working the plants thus far, has been watching the group gain ownership of something that they have become passionate about. They really enjoy watering the plants and making sure the PH levels are good so that the plants are getting the right nutrients. They really enjoy when it is time to harvest- Weighing the lettuce, sorting through the good lettuce and the bad lettuce and then selling them at Dovercourt mostly to the Gold Club Members has been the highlight. They have made meaningful relationships with some of the clients and we now have returning clients every week who look forward to seeing us!
– Kelsey Saunderson, Supervisor

“I liked giving them water and watching them grow”
– Gabriel, Participant
“I worked with the plants and found it very relaxing. It was good to work with other apprentices”
-Jessie, Participant

Annual BBQ!

Written by: Kristen (Algonquin College Business Student)

The Friday before last, Food Centre hosted their annual summertime barbecue. As a first-time PFC barbecue-goer, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was greeted with pleasant surprises. It turns out that` everyone associated with the PFC is somehow friendlier than the last, and the burgers have so many condiment options, that I definitely shared some relish with my shirt.

I quickly learned that the BBQ was hardly about the food, though—people from all over Ottawa came together to connect, and some brave souls (I’m looking at you, Karen!) also danced together to the sound of De Jazz Guys. In case dancing and food weren’t enough to bring people together, there was also a play area for the kids—complete with foam building blocksthat were also kind of fun for us adults, too.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention Merry Dairy dropped by to grace us all with free soft cones and I’m pretty sure some of us snuck seconds. The sunshine cooperated and there was a special appearance by the Shoe Bank, who had an impressive selection of runners, boots, and other footwear.

All in all, my take-away from the PFC BBQ was that it’s so much more than a barbecue. It was a place for community to grow and connect with each other. If you have the chance, drop by PFC or Somerset West to see all the great things they do.

Note from Food Centre: “Throughout the year we have dozens of requests from students who are eager to have a volunteer experience. We welcome this! It is a wonderful opportunity to engage them in conversations about food charity and a system that often promotes, rather challenges, growing economic inequality. This guest blog was written by an Algonquin College business student. We hope that Kristen and her classmates came away with a better understanding of the important role compassion and advocacy play in the work we do.”

4th Annual Gala Wrap-up!

On Thursday June 1st, we hosted our fourth annual Gala –at the GCTC.   We loved welcoming donors, foodies, volunteers, Board Members, community supporters and some neighbours were thrilled to attend thanks to some tickets that were donated.  Our goal was to raise $20,000 which would pay for two months of our summer grocery bills.

We were thrilled with the generosity of everyone who attended and are very excited to announce that we raised $23,000! 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.

We couldn’t put on the event without the amazing generosity of our food providers.  Food was graciously donated by Absinthe, Allium, Bar Laurel, DISH, Holland’s Cake & Shake, Supply and Demand, Stella Luna Gelato, Thyme & Again, and Urban Element. Folks were raving about the food all night and loved interacting with the chefs at the various stations.

Thanks to Beyond the Pale for donating the beer and Jeff Hill from BMO Nesbitt Burns for being our wine sponsor. A special thanks to Sheila Whyte for donating a crew of amazing servers from Thyme & Again which kept the evening flowing perfectly.

The Peptides blew us away with their energy and amazing music. People enjoyed hitting the dance floor and partying to welcome summer!

The Silent Auction tables upstairs and downstairs were busy with amazing prizes. Bidding was fierce!  We were thrilled with the generosity of local business owners who provided great prizes to help us meet our fundraising target.  The hottest prize of the night went to the custom designed barn-board dining table which was so popular we sold it twice!  Other great prizes included donations from Thyme & Again, Uproar Paint and Paper, and Oresta Organics were just a few of the generous donors who provided prizes for the auction.  We had many happy prize winners at the end of the night and a few folks regretting they hadn’t placed that last bid in time! We’ve been requested to have an airhorn for next year to warn people when the final bids need to be in!

13: A Social Enterprise, youth entrepreneurs were sharing samples of their new spice mixes. This year’s cohort is close to wrapping up their year and we were bursting with pride to see their confidence in sharing with folks what the program has meant to them. Our community helpers from Fisher Park Summit were there to greet folks at the door and share their experiences with our Growing Futures program and making pesto which some lucky guests got as a Thank you gift.  These helpers volunteer regularly at our Centre and truly understand the various programs we offer our neighbours.

This is our largest fundraiser of the year. The supporters are many but the need remains.  We feel the community support.  Thanks to all of you for letting us raise the funds we need to support your neighbours.

Until next year!

Photos by JR Photography

Music, Dancing and Food Security


Photo Credit: Valerie Keeler

The PepTides are thrilled to be playing music in support of the Parkdale Food Centre at the Great Canadian Theatre Company on June 1.

One sunny afternoon, we stopped in at Parkdale to say a neighbourly hello. Instantly we felt right at home—and not just because manager Karen Secord was sporting a shock of saucy green hair (if you’ve seen The PepTides’ coifs, you’ll understand!). Every person working in the space had a clear sense ofpurpose and exuded friendliness.

Karen proceeded to explain that “we are a food bank that doesn’t believe in food banks.” Wait, what? What she meant, as we discovered, was that collecting canned beans in a food drive, while a laudable gesture, doesn’t really get at the root causes of why people in need can’t feed themselves in the first place.

Within the space of a few minutes, we saw people cooking their own food, growing their own food, sourcing their own food—even planning how they could make a business selling lettuce to local restaurants and teaching basic business skills to teenagers. Those teenagers, equipped with those basic business skills, will be much better able to feed themselves in their 20s and 30s than they would if they had simply opened a can of beans for lunch.

We found ourselves remembering an old quotation: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is powerful stuff. And light years ahead of what we were expecting.

Our field trip to the Parkdale Food Centre also struck home for another reason: food insecurity is a reality for many artists. A report from the Canadian Independent Music Association speaks of how indie artists (like ourselves) spend 29 hours a week on music and bring in just $7,228 per year. This four-figure salary leaves our colleagues vulnerable in countless ways.

For a stretch of several months in 2015, PepTides founder Claude MarQuis relied on a food bank just to get enough calories to make it through the day. “Food insecurity can affect anyone, but don’t ever be ashamed,” he says. “More than a trillion dollars a year is spent globally on military expenditures. That’s astronomically crazy. Food banks are the humane necessity where the current system has let humanity down. Poverty is not necessarily self-induced. It takes a village to create poverty. And to fix it.”

If the work of the Parkdale Food Centre makes you want to dance, that’s exactly what you should do.

Come to the gala on June 1 and join the circle.

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.


Pasta 101 with Chef Patrick of Absinthe

Pasta, Wine, Good Friends and a Great Cause

Sunday, March 26, 2017 from 10am to 2pm at Absinthe

Can you think of a better Sunday brunch than one in which, under the guidance of one of Ottawa’s great chefs and his “lovable” sous chef for the day, you make your own stuffed pasta , then along with some great wine and a lot of new friends sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour? I cannot think of a better Sunday brunch. AAbsinthend to make the day perfect, all monies raised go to support the many innovative programmes here at the Parkdale Food Centre.



With Absinthe’s chef Owner Partick Garland as your chef and teacher, you and 29 of your new best friends will start the morning off at 10am with coffee/tea and cookies. Nothing like a little sugar and caffeine to get everyone going.  Chef Patrick will lead everyone through a kitchen and cooking orientationottawafoodie2012pastamaker2 session and his sous chef for the day, rock star city councillor Jeff Leiper will be there to help out. We’ll warm up with a simple and universal pasta dough making exercise and then get into the fun part of the day, moving on to pasta rolling and stuffing activities. Here’s where you get to see and hopefully learn the magic of great pasta. We’ll wrap up the kitchen work with how to store and cook the pasta once it’s been made.



And then comes your reward. You get to sit down and enjoy a three course meal which includes the pasta you have just made. You start absintheinside2with Absinthe’s delicious Rosemary Focaccia followed by a  Tortellini Stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach in a Chunky Vegetable and Herb Ragu Romano appetizer and then the main course, Cannelloni Filled with Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Rosemary, Smoked Tomato Coulis Mozzarella. Dessert is Nona’s Tiramisu. And of course, there’s great wine to match the meal.

We hope you will be able to join us. To purchase tickets and reserve your spot, go to our Pasta 101 Page.




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.