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

All About Food Community Walk-A-Thon

The Parkdale Food Centre is happy to be participating in the All About Food Community Walk-A-Thon. On Sunday, October 16th, registration and pledge drop off starts at 12:30 pm at the Dalhousie Food Cupboard (211 Bronson Ave.). The walk begins at 1pm and will end at the Parkdlae United Church.

The walk is 2.5 km long, and maps will be provided at the starting point.

Agency tours will be offered so you can learn more about the important work we do.

Light refreshment will also be provided.

The walk-a-thon will also be supporting St. Luke’s Table, the Parkdale United Church, and the Dalhousie Food Cupboard.

Below is information regarding this wonderful event!


Walkathon event details sheet

Walkathon pledge sheet

4th Annual Parkdale Food Centre Community BBQ

It all started  on Monday the same week. The excitement could be sensed in everyone’s words, and actions. The question that was trending was, “ are you coming to the barbecue?” or even “ do you know about the barbecue happening this Wednesday?” And that was only when they were talking because they were all busy working on something. From getting the barbecues ready to tidying up the place, without mentioning any of the kitchen duties, they were at it, they had to make it happen and it had to be done properly. Responsibilities were shared. Phone calls were being answered, orders picked up, cupboard checked twice, hamburger patties made, drinks made or bought, nothing was missing.

Then came the big day, Wednesday, July 13th. One would have thought that people were stressed but no, they were as casual as they can ever be. Knowing what they had to do and filling in on other tasks when need be.

As early as 9 am, they had started setting up already, and as soon as the set up was done, the fire was set up to the grills and the good smell of deliciousness paired with the live music were invading the whole neighborhood.

Just as last year, a section of the road was closed. This not only made it safe for people to dance and seat on the street, but it also attracted groups of passer-by putting an emphasis on PFC and it’s impact on the community.

The weather was great with a high of 32 and a low of 20. Funny how it started raining right when we were taking down the last tent ( proof that the weather was collaborative).

This year’s BBQ was generously supported by the Resurrection Church, which enabled us to buy all of the necessary items, including all of the hamburger and hotdog buns, watermelon, and salad ingredients. With these funds, we were also able to pay the wonderful band! The church also brought over their blue Imagination Blocks which the kids absolutely loved.

Just as well, we could not go without thanking the stores that generously donated their products. We find in this category Absinthe and Saslove meat shop, for their amazing burgers, Holland’s cake and shake for the giant cake they provided us with, and the Merry Dairy for their variety of ice cream. One can surely say that this year’s barbecue was a success, and all that, of course, would not be possible without the support of our community, and the hard work of the volunteers.

Blog post by Thiena Corlie Gapfasoni ~ Photos by Nancy 


Branching Out Gala – Amazing success!

On Thursday June 23rd, we hosted our third annual Gala – Branching Out – at the GCTC. We were thrilled with the location which gave us more space for our amazing crowd to mix and mingle.   The crowd was a great mix of 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 came tantalizingly close at $17,800.  We were thrilled with the generosity of everyone who attended and are determined next year will be the year we break $20,000!  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.

Photo by Paula Roy

We couldn’t put on the event without the amazing generosity of our food and drink providers.  Food stations by Absinthe, Allium, Bar Laurel, DISH, Holland’s Cake & Shake, Supply and Demand, Thyme & Again, and Urban Element.  Folks were raving about the food all night.  

Daniel Ramjattan brought his amazing Cuban guitar music.  We also thank the crew at GCTC including Amelia and Catharine for being wonderful to work with.  A special thanks to Sheila Whyte for donating a crew of amazing servers from Thyme & Again which kept the evening flowing perfectly.  

Beyond the Pale generously provided an array of delicious local brews and guests enjoyed wine provided by Diamond Estate Winery c/o Liam Doody and Reif Estate Winery c/o Roger Linton/Linarc Consulting.  

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 a Private Shopping Experience by Twiss & Weber followed closely by an amazing travel credit provided by VIA Rail.  Other great prizes included donations from Gallery 3, Uproar Paint and Paper, Diane and Jen, and Escape Manor 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!

It was wonderful to have 13Muesli on hand to both give out samples during the evening and also hand out a bag as a thank you to all the party goers on the way out.  They are 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 also helped to raise enthusiasm at our Photo wall.  These helpers volunteer regularly at our Centre and truly understand the various programs we offer our neighbours.

We were also happy to have a video crew lead by Roberta Bouchard with camera folks Ryan and Nick.  We got some great clips of guests chatting about the Centre and please watch for a new video coming up where we share the thoughts out to you all.

The Photo wall was new for us.  A way to share all the different programs we offer to our neighbours.  It was also wonderful to read the many thoughtful responses to the questions of Parkdale is … , Food is…, Hunger is… and Community is….. . We took all the amazing responses and are planning to display them up on the walls of the Centre very soon.

When we look at how far this event has come in three years it is reflective of how far the Parkdale Food Centre has come.  The supporters are many but the need remains.  It’s our largest event of the year but 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 below by JR Photography

Our Giving Moment to the Parkdale Food Centre

“Corporate social responsibility”, as a term, has the look of typical business-speak, doesn’t it? But don’t let that deceive you – CSR is not just another piece of jargon from the corporate world.

For those new to the term, CSR “aims to embrace responsibility for corporate actions and to encourage a positive impact on the environment and stakeholders including consumers, employees, investors, communities.”

And as a philosophy and a practice, it’s become a key part of the way some of the best companiesdo business.

MediaMiser has our own dedicated CSR Committee and, while we conduct initiatives throughout the year, it’s the holiday season that really brings into focus the importance of helping our community.

Marcus_and_Karen_PFCThis year, as in several years past, we’ve made the Parkdale Food Centre our charity of choice. As an organization dedicated to providing emergency food assistance to those in need, it embodies the values both of the season and of social responsibility.

Two gift baskets were donated by one of our employees, Donald Den, who couldn’t be in Ottawa for the holidays. We sold tickets to raffle them off, with all the proceeds going directly to the Centre.

And it’s turned out to be our best year yet: with an appetite for giving (and maybe for those salted caramels in the “sweet” basket), MediaMiser raised around $600.

Charity is a fundamental part of citizenship, and we’re proud to donate what we can to the Parkdale Food Centre. This holiday season, we’re making it our giving moment.

Heck, if it’s good enough for the Governor General, it’s good enough for us!


Originally posted by Marcus Kaulback at MediaMiser
Our Giving Moment to the Parkdale Food Centre

The Nature of Giving

Nature was the prominent theme as Cindy Scott and Roger Bryanton hosted their second annual ‘pop up’ Art Show and Sale in support of the Parkdale Food Centre. Once again, local artists Christopher Griffin and Nicole Allen donated 15% of the evening’s sales to support PFC’s “good food” programs for neighbours in need.

Nicole’s brilliant florals, dramatic landscapes, and cheeky birds were a popular choice as guests got a head start on their holiday shopping. Two ‘big birds’- “Old Soul” and “The Optimist”- kept a close eye on the action as buyers snapped up Nicole’s blooming vases, rugged nature scenes, and feisty feathered friends.

Fresh from completing two major installations at the new Glebe Mobility Hub and Pomeroy House restaurant, Christopher offered art lovers an array of haunting nudes, original cement etchings and an eclectic selection of vibrant street scenes and animal life inspired by recent travels to Cuba, Panama, and locales closer to home, like Patterson Creek and Brown’s Inlet.

The evening included first time art buyers (and newlyweds!), avid collectors, holiday shoppers and those who simply wanted to appreciate the talent and creativity of two very dedicated and generous artists.

The event raised over $2000 in just over 4 hours – funds that will make a big difference over the holiday season and as Parkdale Food Centre plans its programs for 2016.

Thanks to Cindy, Roger, Christopher and Nicole for demonstrating the true nature of giving.

Learn more about Nicole Allen: Website | Facebook 

Learn more about Christopher Griffin: Website | Facebook


Nicole Allen and Christopher Griffin


First time art buyers – and newlyweds!



First time art buyers – and newlyweds!


Cindy Scott, Nicole Allen & Virginia Vince of Bloomfields Flowers


PFC at Ottawa’s Spur Festival

Last weekend, the PFC’s Karen Secord moderated a panel at the Spur festival held in Ottawa. The panel, called “From Hunger to Health in the Nation’s Capital” brought together a group to talk about food security that included Kaitrin Doll, an Anti-Poverty Community Engagement Worker at the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, Pierre Desrochers, a Professor of Geography, U of T Mississauga Campus, and Elaine Power Professor of Sociocultural Studies, Queens University.

The group discussed why the responsibility to feed and the right to food are about more than just basic nutrition, and centered around the seventy-five thousand residents in Ottawa that are unable to access nutritious food, along with the 12 percent increase in food bank users that has occurred over the last three years.

For a majority of panellists at the discussion From Hunger to Health in the Nation’s Capital, food was only the starting point of the discussion. The main issue was poverty.

Some great coverage and opportunities to have further discussion resulted:

For more information about the Spur Festival, visit their website at http://spurfestival.ca/ottawa/.

All About Food – A Community Walkathon!

A great new event is happening in our community! The All About Food Community Walkathon is taking place on Sunday, October 18, 2015. Join your family, friends, neighbours, and a number of great organizations for a 2.5km walk in our community to help fund various food programs at the participating organizations.

All proceeds from this Walkathon will help fund the various food programs at these participating organizations:

Cash donations at this multi-agency event will be divided equally between the organizations, or donations can be made by cheque to a specific organization from the list above. A tax receipt will be issued for all donations of $20.00 or more. Thank you!

Sunday, October 18th, 2015. Rain or shine!

  • 12:30 PM – Registration & Pledge Form Drop Off @ St-Luke’s Table
  • 1:00 PM – Depart from St Luke’s Table (760 Somerset Street West)
  • Pit Stop – Parkdale Food Centre at 30 Rosemount Avenue
  • Final Stop (3:00PM) – Parkdale United Church at 429 Parkdale Avenue

Maps will be provided at the starting point, and volunteers will guide you along the way if needed. Agency information and tours will be provided so you can learn more about the important work that we do. Information about the Dalhousie Food Cupboard will be available at St Luke’s Table. Refreshments will be provided!

Interested in participating? Download the pledge form, collect pledges, and mark your calendars!

How does our garden grow?


If you’ve walked by our location lately, you may have noticed the new octagon-shaped planter in front of 30 Rosemount Avenue. This is our new Octogarden and it’s part of our new on-site gardening initiative. Not only does our new location offer us better ways to connect with our clients, we also have the chance to grow fresh produce that can be given to clients, used in our cooking classes and provide a way to teach people about growing their own food.

We’ve got two new garden plots – in the back we have a small area that we’ll use to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, bean, peppers, cucumbers and out front in our Octogarden we’ll grow herbs and snackable veggies like green peas.


Thanks to a fantastic team of volunteers and donations of gardening materials from the Wellington St. Home Hardware, Tamarack Wellington, Taggart and many individuals we were able to get our gardens set up and ready for growing.

Along with providing us with fresh food, our hope is that these gardens will have many fantastic trickle-down effects for our clients and community including learning about growing food, relaxing with nature and connecting with one another.

Now we’re just waiting for planting season! We’ve got a great group of volunteers and clients who are excited to get growing with us. Many thanks to the community for their support with this initiative. We lo  ok forward to showing of our garden through-out the year.


If you’d like to get involved, we’ve got some great opportunities for you:

  • Donate fresh vegetables from your garden. Register and learn more about our community gardening program.
  • Support our reverse food truck. Donate online in whatever way you want – support a cooking class, buy a crockpot, buy some milk, or a bag of food.
  • Stop by and visit our bright red van. The Parkdale Food Centre van will be out at community events and we’d love to meet you and accept your donations of vegetables, food and toiletries.

Fisher Summit Community Helpers

This year Fisher Park / Summit Alternative School has been actively involved in the process of community building. Our students have engaged in hygiene-kit fundraising drives, healthy food drives, as well as providing hands-on service to support their fellow community members. This student initiative to act as “good neighbours” emanates from a challenge posed by Karen Secord, the executive director of the Parkdale Food Centre. Upon visiting our classroom in the fall of 2014, Karen challenged the students to become good-will ambassadors for those Kitchissippi residents facing the perils associated with food-insecurity.

The students embraced Karen’s challenge, organizing an extra-curricular group (the Fisher Summit Community Helpers), and quickly began the process of engaging with their community from a social justice perspective. Through their initiative, organization, and determination our students have helped to nourish the residents of Kitchissippi, strengthening our community as a whole. Most importantly, these students have extended dignity into the lives of their neighbours. As a culminating activity, the students who formed our Fisher Summit Community Helpers group, decided that they would like to see first hand what the Parkdale Food Centre offers to the community.

Following our visit in early April, and after a glorious year of working with Karen and the PFC, here is what our kids took away from their experience at the Centre:

During our trip to the PFC I felt happy, and that I was helping in the community. While volunteering at the PFC I experienced making memories with my friends that I will never forget and having a sense of meaning. The tasks that I completed to help the day-to-day operations at the PFC were helping around the kitchen. Completing these tasks revealed to me that you have to take responsibility and that you should cherish what you have because you are privileged.

During our trip to the PFC I felt …I felt really proud that I was part of the group, and really happy because we were helping people that needed it. While volunteering at the PFC I experienced …hope, because I wanted to go to help again, as well as see more people at the Centre. The tasks that I completed to help the day-to-day operations at the PFC were … I helped make some of the best smelling muffins that I have ever smelled. I was in charge of smashing bananas for the muffins.

During our trip to the PFC I felt very good because I felt like I was doing something to help my community. I had this warm fuzzy feeling inside. It felt awesome to help. While volunteering at the PFC I experienced feelings of accomplishment and pride when I finished a task. The tasks that I completed to help the day-to-day operations at the PFC were getting the fruit and veggies from Karen’s car and helping sort them all. Completing these tasks revealed to me that the Parkdale Food Center really tries to help keep our community healthy because everyone deserves to be healthy no matter what your living conditions are.

During our trip to the PFC I felt very happy to know that I was helping out the less fortunate in my community. I also felt shocked to see how many people so near where I live need to use a facility like this. While volunteering at the PFC I experienced happiness and joy while being with friends and helping others. The tasks that I completed to help the day-to-day operations at the PFC were sorting and stacking vegetables and fruit. Completing these tasks revealed to me the amount of care they put into all the things they do. We had to put all of the produce that was bruised, or damaged in a box, and these items would then be used to cook or bake other things.

During our trip to the PFC I felt … honoured to have been there, and happy that I was helping other people. The tasks that I completed to help the day-to-day operations at the PFC were … Completing these tasks revealed to me … When I was there I made banana muffins and it made me realize that every effort, no matter how small, helps a lot.

During our trip to the PFC I felt … like I was helping the community. The tasks that I completed to help the day-to-day operations at the PFC were … bagging foods and putting them in the right place. Completing these tasks revealed to me … that we need to be grateful for what we have, and to stop complaining 🙂

The words of children carry so much weight, and when these words are derived from a place of equity and social justice, they have the power to transform a community. Thank you to Karen, and the entire Parkdale Food Centre team for challenging our students to actively engage in their neighbourhood. This is the generation that we have been waiting for! More to come from Fisher / Summit during the 2015-2016 school year.