Cooking Workshop with Patrick Garland from Absinthe Café

Last week, the Parkdale Food Centre hosted a cooking workshop with Patrick Garland, chef from Absinthe Café.  Twenty five people participated, making it the most well attended cooking workshop yet.  The menu consisted of foccacia with herbs and olives, chicken cacciatore, carrot velouté and chocolate chip cookies.  The workshop was lively and informative, and the resulting meal was simply delicious.

Chopping rosemary for the focaccia


Seasoning the chicken thighs


Blending and straining the carrot soup to get the perfect texture.


Sautéing the peppers, etc. for the chicken cacciatore sauce


Breaking bread.


As one participant put it, “Food always tastes better when eaten with others”.  We couldn’t agree more.

Crowd-sourcing to get our Reverse Food Truck on the road!

10592667_10152581256625310_4583544175880260127_nOur dream at PFC is to have our own leased van. Many of our neighbours-in-need have mobility issues and would not receive food assistance without transportation to/from the Centre from our staff and volunteers . This becomes particularly essential during the winter. Staff and volunteers have also been using their own vehicles to collect large food donations, frequently from distant suburban or rural locations. In both cases, this results in poor or unreliable access to the Centre for our neighbours-in-need and food donors alike and makes program planning as well as delivery difficult.

We are very excited that the Taggart Parkes Foundation has given us a 3 year commitment to lease a van for PFC that would allow us to pick up our clients, take them to the Centre and back home again, as well as transport large food donations coming from a distance. We are also planning to potentially share the van with neighbouring food banks for similar purposes.

This van is also going to be a “reverse food truck,” accepting food donations at community events. This clever concept has already met with great success in a number of cities, and we had an opportunity this past summer to try this experiment ourselves with a food truck generously loaned by our community partner, Hintonburger. Based on the incredible response, we are now keen to manage our own reverse food truck. A van would make this possible and gives us a “vehicle” to collect community donations and engage the public about community food needs.


Now we need to raise the money to get this van on the road. We aren’t able to use the money donated to us for food to fund this project, so we have added some items to our Reverse Food Truck online in the hopes of raising the money we need through specific donations. Unless we can fund a $6,000 gap, we won’t be able to move forward with this project. The levels are:

Friend            $25
Supporter    $100
Patron           $250 – name on the van (if you wish!)
Sponsor        $500 – name and logo on the van (if you wish!)

If you could help us get this truck on the road we know it would make a difference to our neighbours in need. Check out the Reverse Food Truck online to donate at one of the levels above, and help raise enough money to cover the ongoing costs of the van.

Update [January 23, 2015] : WOW! After Karen spoke on CBC Ottawa Morning radio on January 22 to talk about our need to raise $6,000 to get the truck on the road, something amazing happened. That very morning a young local neighbourhood family called her up and then delivered a cheque for the entire amount in the afternoon.  The Board met that evening and we are full steam ahead and very grateful to be able to move forward with the truck immediately.  It will be popping up at events and being shared with other local organizations just as soon as we can order it and get it on the road.  This is wonderful news for our neighbours in need with mobility issues.  Receiving the entire amount we needed in less than 24 hours from the launch of the appeal is still causing us to stop and smile.  What a wonderfully generous community we live in!


30 Rosemount | A New Space and a Grand Opening Celebration!

As the Chairman of the Board, I had the great privilege to welcome a great crowd of our donors, supporters, and volunteers at the Grand Opening of Parkdale Food Center on Monday, in our new home at 30 Rosemount.

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The first time I heard the street name 30 Rosemount was about a year ago, and I did not know exactly where it was or what was there. What a difference a year makes! There is no doubt there were number of us here on Monday that now know every square inch of the lower level of 30 Rosemount.

For all of us involved in building and creating this new space, it has been a most interesting and rewarding experience. It is not often that an organization has an opportunity to start fresh with a completely open space and the ability to design what you want from scratch.

When we look back at a few of the steps that led us here today, I think about:

  • The process of deciding — was this the right move for us and more importantly was it the right move to support our neighbours and would it be beneficial to everyone?
  • Working through the financing which in the beginning seemed dubious at best
  • Creating a vision of the space. What would it look like and how would it function?
  • Working with Somerset West Community Health Center, who were supportive of our goals and helped us whenever and wherever they could
  • The people who came forward to offer their time, expertise, services, materials and advice that kept the project moving forward. In many cases, these were free or at cost
  • Obtaining a Trillium Fund grant to run programs and hire staff for the new space
  • And, to our staff, volunteers, neighbours and board members who gave willingly of their time to be part of this journey: I simply cannot thank you enough

I would like to stress how important it is to be in the same building as this health center, so our neighbours can be better supported by the full range of health care services that are all under the same roof.

We will continue to foster this relationship with SWCHC to make it a better community for everyone.

Over the coming months we are anxious to develop more programs to use this beautiful space to its full potential. Our neighbours inspire us to keep fundraising to give them more opportunities like the Cooking Workshops, Collective Kitchen and the gleaning project, and of course to provide better quality food.

donor wallIn the hallway by our entrance, you will notice our Patron Donor Wall. These are individuals or companies who have made donations above $3000 or partnered with us to run major programs. Please take a moment when you visit to check out these amazing supporters of the PFC.

The Community and Space Builders Plaque recognizes companies and individuals who have made a special contribution through both time and money to the renovation of our space and they are:


On site at our grand opening to join us from these two companies were Martin Chenier from Brigil Homes and Jeff Hooper, Owner, Keller Williams Ottawa Realty. We were also joined by Mayor Jim Watson, MPP Yasir Naqvi, MP Paul Dewar, Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper, members of our board, and a great number of friends, supporters and our neighbours, who did a wonderful job preparing and sharing food they created in our new kitchen.

Thank you all for your incredible support and for being part of this next step for the PFC. This project would not have occurred without significant financial assistance from Brigil Homes and Keller Williams Foundation for Giving – their support paid for most of the renovations, furniture and other start-up costs.

photo (1)Once again, for those who joined us, thank you for taking the time to make the day so special for us. We are excited about the future and the opportunities that this space will provide for our neighbours.

Don Flynn
Chairman of the Board, Parkdale Food Centre

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!

The Art of Sharing

On a frosty November night last week, Cindy Scott and Roger Bryanton opened their home to friends and neighbours, artists and art lovers at their first “Pop Up” Living Room Art Show in support of the Parkdale Food Centre. Featuring local artists Christopher Griffin and Nicole Allen, the evening was a relaxed and intimate gathering where guests could mingle, meet the artists and learn more about their work.

The evening featured works from Christopher Griffin’s recent collections, including a colorful array of hypnotic nudes, paintings from his ‘Portage’ and ‘Panama’ series and a beautiful caribou etched in cement.

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Christopher Griffin’s hypnotic nudes / Christopher Griffin and a piece from his recent Portage Series

Nicole Allen’s work included vibrant florals, forest scenes and her whimsical series of “cheeky birds”, which were snapped up faster than you can say “chickadee”!

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Nicole Allen’s vibrant canvases, Cheeky Birds, and bold blooms

While the atmosphere was relaxed, the buying was brisk! Christopher’s nudes were a hot item for pre-holiday shoppers while far-flung friends called in on Skype to purchase several of Nicole’s colourful canvases. The event raised over $2200 for the Centre.


Guests mingle at ‘Pop Up’ Gallery


PFC Board Member Hilary McVey visits with Sue Ann Wright – happy new owner of one of Christopher’s paintings

Karen Secord and Hilary McVey were on hand to mingle with guests and share more information on the Centre’s upcoming move to 30 Rosemount Avenue and its plans for 2015. With the holidays just around the corner, the evening was the perfect way to celebrate the spirit of the season. Thanks to all of the art lovers who came out to lend their support and special thanks to Cindy, Roger, Christopher and Nicole for their enthusiasm and generosity.


Sincere thanks to Cindy Scott, Nicole Allen and Christopher Griffin for your creativity and generosity

Thanks for supporting Bountiful Tables!


We’d been mulling over the idea of this fundraiser for about nine months when we decided to take the plunge and organize it. With a quick turnaround time of about four weeks, we hit the streets looking for partner restaurants who would generously donate a portion of their sales for the evening of October 21st to the Parkdale Food Centre. Once word spread in the restaurant community, we were able to line up seven partners: Silver Spoon, Burnt Butter, The Flying Banzini, 10Fourteen, Thyme & Again, Petit Bill’s Bistro, and Hintonburger.

Through the generous donations of our partner restaurants and diners that evening we raised a total of $1924.50.

The continued generosity of our restaurant partners and our neighbours always amazes us.
We are hoping this might become an annual event for us — stay tuned to see!

Taking the Reverse Food Truck to a new location: online!


We’re happy to announce that today we launched the world’s first Online Reverse Food Truck at This new and innovative channel for donations will give the local community here in Ottawa, and the broader community online a chance to help one of Ottawa’s most dynamic food organizations through convenient, online giving.

The Reverse Food Truck is built on Shopify’s ecommerce platform and allows supporters to donate fresh food, personal hygiene items, or support the centre’s workshops without visiting the Centre during regular operating hours. “The Reverse Food Truck is open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week to accept donations. Many of our supporters enjoy choosing specific items to bring in, and often, parents will involve their children in the discussion about what donations they would like to provide,” says Hilary McVey, Fundraising Chair on the Board.

Visitors to the online Reverse Food Truck site select the items they would like to donate and checkout in a few simple steps. All donations receive an eligible tax receipt immediately by email.

The website was designed and built by online marketing consultant and web developer David Hicks after visiting the ‘real life’ Reverse Food Truck pilot during the summer of 2014. The PFC team would like to thank him for pitching the online Reverse Food Truck concept and for volunteering to build the website. We hope other food centres might look at the model and realize an opportunity to complement their more traditional donation options. The PFC team would be delighted to share what we have learned through this process, as well as information about the steps involved from idea to launch, with other food centres.

Pumpkin Pickin` at Proulx Farm

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It was a beautiful mild autumn day when 29 PFC volunteers and neighbours headed to Proulx Farm in Cumberland. We made a quick pit stop to pick up hot chocolate for everyone from Bridgehead and to pick up some friends at the Bronson Centre, and then we were on our way. Giselle Proulx greeted us as we arrived at the farm. She told us how the farm is 200 acres and it`s the fourth generation of the family who`s taking over the operation of the farm. She provided us with some tips about choosing and cooking pumpkins (the smaller sugar pumpkins are sweeter, fleshier and less watery—perfect for cooking pies, muffins, soups and cakes) and also talked about crop rotation and how it is good for the soil. We took a tour of the barn to look at the farm animals, a hayride through the maple trees where they tap sap for maple syrup in the spring, and a walk through one of the corn mazes. After a delicious lunch of sandwiches and muffins prepared by PFC volunteers, fresh apples from a local orchard (thanks Ross!), and hot chocolate from Bridgehead, we got down to work picking the perfect pumpkins for cooking. Everyone picked 2 or 3 pumpkins to take home to cook and we`ll use the rest of the pumpkins for roasting the seeds and in recipes in our cooking workshop next Thursday, October 23, with Jo-Ann Laverty (co-owner of the Red Apron). We are looking forward to hearing what our neighbours made with their pumpkins, to share recipes and tips, and to sample some tasty pumpkin treats!

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Thanks to the Trillium Foundation for making this possible, to Bridgehead for the hot chocolate donation, to all of our neighbours who braved the weather to come out and pick pumpkins (as it was, it didn`t start raining until we were on our way home), and to Proulx Farm for the opportunity to see how pumpkins are grown and harvested.

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


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!


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.”


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.


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.