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.

The Wellington Record Club

The lights are dimmed, candles are lit, cell phones are switched off, and the unmistakable sound of a needle hitting a groove means another meeting of the Wellington Record Club is underway.

Photo Credit: Rob Riendeau

I first took the idea of a record listening club to Shane at the Wellington Gastropub about three years ago, based on a BBC article about similar groups in the UK. I knew that Shane loved music, and had similar tastes to me, and I felt the pub’s White Room would be a suitable venue. Shane took my simple idea and created something far better than I had ever envisaged, partnering with a local speaker manufacturer, breweries and record stores to provide monthly meetings that quickly became popular amongst the city’s music lovers for the high-quality listening experience. Notably, all proceeds from the meetings are donated to the Parkdale Food Centre – between $400 and $500 each month.

The idea behind the Record Club is to actively sit and listen to an entire album (or two) on vinyl, with no distractions – something unusual for many of us in an age where we have thousands of songs on our phones but often play music without really listening, it’s just background while driving, working or being otherwise occupied. To help promote focused listening, we have a few light-hearted ‘rules’ for the duration of each record – mainly that cell phones should be switched off and no talking until the music is over, at which time lively discussions about what we just heard usually arise.

The high-quality listening experience is provided by a pair of amazing Tetra Speakers, developed and built right here in Ottawa by Adrian Butts. They have to be heard to be believed, but the most frequent comment we hear is along the lines of “I’ve listened to that album countless times but tonight I heard things I’ve never heard before”.

The records we play are sourced either from our own collections, or from stores such as Compact Music and Hintonburg’s The Record Centre. The 23 meetings held to date have leaned heavily towards Shane and my tastes – English indie/alternative/classic rock, with Radiohead, the Beatles and the Clash amongst the early selections, and the most recent being a pair of meetings a week apart during which we listened to Led Zeppelin’s first four albums. We are looking to diversify the offerings and each meeting a sheet is passed around for attendees to suggest music for future evenings.

Before the music starts, the folks at the meeting enjoy delicious canapés provided by the Gastropub, and beer donated by Beaus or occasionally another brewery. The venue, food and beer are all provided by the Gastropub and kind supporters, enabling 100% of the requested $25 donation from each person to be passed directly on to the Parkdale Food Centre.

The only problem with Record Club is that there is so much music that we all want to listen to, that one meeting a month never seems like enough!

If you would be interested in attending a future meeting and helping to raise funds for the Parkdale Food Centre, follow @thegastroub on Twitter, or check the pub’s website at

Thanks to PFC supporter (and Wellington Record Club regular Ian Brown) for this guest post, and to Rob Riendeau for the photo, above! 

Friday evening cooking classes and a community meal

I was at the PFC for a Friday evening cooking class on April 10th. 16 of us worked together on making the chick pea curry and so it didn’t take long for all the vegetables to be chopped, the chick peas to be rinsed, and the tinned tomatoes to be added to the pot. A few herbs and spices and it was ready for the crock pot.

Sixteen of us sat down at one big table to eat a good nutritious curry with donated fresh bread. Vincent was the youngest at 3 years old; I’m not sure who was the oldest, I’m told its rude to ask these things! But even the magic of PFC can’t cook a crock pot curry that quickly, so we ate some curry that had been made earlier in the week. But there is some kind of miracle when people with all kinds of stories sit and share food they have prepared together. The conversations flowed easily and the sense of community was strong.

Hub Anglican Church is sponsoring these Friday nights once a month. The PFC’s tag line is “Neighbour to Neighbour”, and after all, that is really close to Jesus’s tag line “Love your neighbour”. Making new friendships doesn’t have to be complicated, the food on Friday was delicious, good value and really simple to cook; and created space for people to build friendships and community.

So what did you do Friday night? Look out for the next Friday evening cooking class in May and come and join your neighbours.

Thanks to Alan Wickham, who wrote this guest post for us. Interested in joining us for a Friday evening cooking class? Check our calendar and contact us to learn more. 

Ottawa Foresters visit the PFC

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On Saturday, February 28th, the Ottawa Foresters Volunteer Team had the absolute pleasure of coming together in support of the Parkdale Food Centre. What an amazing experience!

The Centre’s staff and volunteers were accommodating and welcoming and certainly looked after all our needs while we were on site in their beautiful kitchen cooking up pots of chili and baking dozens of muffins to fill the freezer for PFC neighbours and re-stocking many of their everyday staple supplies.

We’re already looking forward to partnering with the Parkdale Food Centre again later this year for another inspiring, community activity — meeting our Foresters’ purpose of helping to enhance the well-being of families within our communities!

Thanks to the Ottawa Foresters for joining us at the PFC and sharing an afternoon of cooking, community, and great food! (And to their member coordinator Debra Thornington for organizing the group and sharing this guest post with us.)

From time to time, we have a variety of community groups come and join us at the PFC, bringing ingredients for delicious recipes and preparing food that fills our freezers for our neighbours. Do you have a group that would be interested in something like this? Contact us and we’d be happy to chat about arranging a time.

The Collective Kitchen

The moment Karen Secord mentioned the concept of the Collective Kitchen to me was the moment that I decided to stop paying lip-service to the ‘idea’ of volunteering. That conversation was a personal turning point and prompted me to make a commitment to dedicating time and energy in a program that I thought was brilliant. It aligned perfectly with my food industry skill set, and, having previously met some of the neighbours who rely on the PFC at a Crockpot chef demo/lunch, I was enthusiastic about being part of a progressive community organization that dedicated itself to supporting those in need through good food.

The essence of the program is for a group of participants to cook a casserole style meal in large quantity and package it into individual containers, thus allowing them several healthy frozen meals kept in inventory at the PFC and accessed by the neighbours as needed. Now that we are 6 sessions in, I realize that it’s about so much more than that.

IMG_5256Generosity — The participants decided (and were quite adamant) at the first session that a portion of what we produced collectively would be made available for others in need who were not part of the group–those in need taking care of others in need.

IMG_5715Learning — Laughter, debate, expanding cooking skills and food knowledge, collective participation from prep and cooking to packaging and clean up—all the neighbours take so much pride in their PFC kitchen and the opportunities if affords them.

IMG_5253Confidence –– Some of the most valuable moments are to see various participants flourish, from quiet and introverted to confident and open, so very proud of what they’re accomplishing.


Community — A meal at the end of each session allows us to acknowledge what we’ve achieved in a few short hours, discuss and plan what we might cook the next date, give ourselves ‘props’ for the deliciousness that we’ve created and share gratitude for the organization and people who make it all possible.  IMG_5263 Thanks to Jo-Anne Laverty, co-owner of The Red Apron, who wrote this post for us about her Collective Kitchen experience. And huge thanks to the Trillium Foundation for providing us with the financial support that makes this program possible. 

Sprouting our Garden

Several keen volunteers braved the blowing snow and wind on Friday to help launch Parkdale Food Centre’s backyard garden.


Using newspaper and soil donated from Home Hardware, we planted 75 tomato seeds into small pots. Once the seeds grow into seedlings, some will be planted in the garden and others will be shared with neighbours for their home gardens.


Tom, a master gardener who is also one of the Centre’s cooking workshop leaders, stands in front of the space of our future vegetable garden.


Over the next few weeks and months the site will be transformed into a thriving garden with raised beds, trellises, pots and benches. The garden will be a demonstration site for growing food, and a place to gather to share ideas, inspiration and experience.

Happy Birthday Beyond the Pale!

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Friends and fans turned out en masse at the Orange Gallery to celebrate Beyond the Pale’s 2nd Birthday! Rob, Shane and Al had a full crew on hand pouring BTP pints while DJ Devin Atherton spun some sweet 80’s vinyl and kept the dance floor jumping “all night long”! Oh yes, Mr. Lionel Ritchie was in the house.

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Union 613 dished out a Fritos flavor fiesta and Holland’s Cake and Shake fogged things up with some beer-spiked ice rocks (dry ice included!) and one deliciously decadent birthday cake!

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The Orange Gallery provided the ideal space for a lively and energetic celebration. Work by local artists created plenty of opportunities for interaction and conversation and the original hardwood floors were the perfect platform for a night of non-stop revelry.

Beyond the Pale has been a dedicated supporter of the Parkdale Food Centre from the very beginning and this night was no exception. The event raised $2100 for the Centre’s healthy food programs for our neighbours in need.


Thank you to Beyond the Pale, The Orange Gallery, Union 613 and Holland’s Cake and Shake for being such great community partners and friends. We can’t wait for Birthday # 3!

Reverse Food Truck Gets Lots of Love from PFC Neighbours

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!





Fun for all at the Second Annual Parkdale Food Centre BBQ


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.


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













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.


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.


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.