An international love story for the Parkdale Food Centre

I came to Canada from Australia for love in July 2014 and was getting to know my local area in the weeks after I arrived. As I was reading local news, I came across articles about this local firebrand, Karen Secord, who was saying that we shouldn’t be giving out Kraft Dinner to people because their health was worth more than that. I turned to my (then) boyfriend and said: “What is Kraft Dinner?” and the response was “It’s one lab accident away from being plastic; you don’t want to eat that!”

With that comment, I thought, I’d like to get to know this Karen Secord. I traipsed down to the old location at 89 Stonehurst and the woman with the red hair that I had seen on CTV greeted me with a huge smile. As I was being shown around, there were some people cooking in the small church kitchen. At that point, Karen was distracted (as is often the case!) and took one of the kitchen volunteers with her. I washed my hands and continued chopping onions where the other person had left off – and the rest is history.

Lunch made by Susan at 89 Stonehurst on 25 November 2014

For three months, every Tuesday and Thursday myself and two other volunteers made lunch. Soups, stews, muffins, whatever we had to work with that day – we turned it into something healthy and nutritious for the neighbours. When the time came for PFC’s big move to Rosemount Ave, Karen and (still) boyfriend and I stayed up until midnight the day after Halloween, blaring Michael Jackson and painting the walls that lovely yellow which is officially called “Harvest Gold”.

Sarah Stewart, Louise Fortier and Susan at 89 Stonehurst on 27 November, 2014

Unexpectedly, (now) husband and I moved to Washington D.C in July 2015 and I spent three years working at the Embassy of Canada. During this time, we continued to be monthly donors to PFC, and I thought about the centre a lot, especially when observing the homeless who sleep rough outside the Embassy. I thought a lot about how the services that existed for them in DC were not adequate, and how amazing it would be if they had a place like PFC.

I often look at the neighbours at PFC and think of my own parents who made the journey to Australia in the 1980s. While they have become the definition of a success story – the early years were hard. If a place like PFC had existed, perhaps it would have made it a little easier for them: somewhere where they would have been welcomed, could have shared their food and stories and become more of a part of a community. Parkdale Food Centre has been described as a ‘miracle’ by our neighbours. I don’t think that is hyperbole.

The kitchen on 2 December 2014, 4 days before move in day. What a change!

I’m now very proud to be an employee of PFC, as the Ottawa Food Network Coordinator, helping the 8 other organisations in our network bring the same joy to their communities, as we bring to ours. Together we are collaboratively supporting our members to increase the provision of fresh, healthy food, to bolster local donations to their cause, to change the notion that food-banking should be normal.

My story is an international story of love for PFC but it’s also an illustration of how a person can be at once a volunteer, a donor and an employee. Parkdale Food Centre is a place where we don’t have to fit into a box and where involvement is not tied only to one role.

Today, December 6th 2018, is the 4th year anniversary of that fateful move to Rosemount Ave, and on this occasion, I encourage those in our community to come in and visit! Stop by, have a coffee and talk to your neighbours. I also encourage you to please donate to our cause. We are only as strong as the incredible community of people who support us. At the end of each year it is always challenging to know whether we have enough to keep the lights on. Becoming a monthly donor helps us know what our cash-flow is throughout the year and empowers us to keep on doing the work we’re doing to make our community stronger and healthier, together.

Locally Grown Gourmet Lettuce?

by Sue Hall

Have you heard of growing food without soil?

Have you heard about kids/youth caring for a garden right in their own classroom, community centre or community house?

Well, that is exactly what we are doing! Food and
Finance: Growing Futures
, is a project that is engaging our children and the youth of our community. When you partner them up with local businesses, and you have a new geneimg_2181ration of healthy, entrepreneurial children that are excited to share their experiences with family and friends.

The Food and Finance: Growing Futures Project was born from an idea that the Director of PFC, Karen Secord had one day. She realized that when it comes to middle class habits around food, there was a gap between what people think they should be doing versus what people are actually doing. Every parent wants to feed their children healthy wholesome foods, but for many reasons it doesn’t always happen.

She realized that if we bring in the children and get them excited about eating healthy at an early age, then change becomes easier. Not only eating healthier, but teaching kids real life skills to make a healthier, happier, and more employment ready generation.

img_1878So how are we doing this? Bring in the Tower Gardens! Tower Gardens are state-of- the-art vertical aeroponic growing systems that can be set up indoors with a very small footprint. The Tower can grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and many different kinds of fruit in less time than it takes in soil.

From seeds, to seedlings, to planting, to harvesting, kids are taking ownership and pride in growing their own food. As a Holistic Nutritionist and Project Manager of this venture, I have experienced firsthand how many children, using the Tower Garden in various schools, community houses, or community centre, have embraced this project with open arms and now open mouths as they harvest their gardens!

The Tower Gardens are located in 3 schools, 2 community houses, a community centre and a food bank where teachers and youth workers have embraced this project. Children as young as 4 years old to the age of 14 are growing, cooking, marketing and selling. I have witnessed an increase in appetite and the desire not only to eat healthy, but to share with others.

Local business owners are also on board! Sheila Whyte, Owner of Thyme & Again, Wentzi Yeung, Owner of Culture Kombucha, and Jo Ann Laverty, Owner of Cake Lab have partnered with Fisher Summit, Connaught PS, and Devonshire PS respectively. Business owners and students together are working together to share knowledge and cultivate curiosity. Students understand that this partnership with the Food and Finance Project is a rare learning opportunity, and are proud to be part of the success of this program will no doubt have for them as individuals, and for the community. These opportunities are life changers!

Each location site has a different  story. Matt Herrington, grade 7 math teacher at Fisher Summit, has used the tower garden to teach place img_2123value to his students. He writes,

One student’s experience  struck me as unique. This student had struggled for an entire 50 minute period to understand place value (how ones, tens, hundreds, work). She was stumped and my heart ached for her. So, during our next period when I introduced the Garden Log’s and saw her face light up, mostly because she was eager to explore the garden, but also because she understood this meant a short reprieve from the dreaded study of place value; Or so she thought!

She took her journal to the garden and decided to record the initial height of each plant. At one point she called me over to inquire about how to record ‘five and a half’ centimetres on the page: “How do you write a 39 and a half sir?” Using ten linking cubes, put together as one whole, I asked her separate the whole into 2 equal groups. She quickly took the whole apart and had two groups of 2. I then asked her, “What did you do to that whole?” She responded, “I broke it in half.”

So we then looked back at her paper and the lonely 5 recorded there, and I asked, “so, what does a 39 and a half look like?” She looked at the linking cubes and at the 5 on her page and quickly wrote, 5.5cm. When she made this realization her smile reflected a sense of contentedness, of accomplishment, and a warmth slowly lit her eyes. She went back to the garden and kept recording plant heights. Math hurdle cleared with a little help from the dill growing in our garden.  Awesome!

Salad Bowl Day Lunch at Devonshire PS with teacher Stephen Skoutajan and his grade five students. Students filled their plates with gourmet lettuce just harvested from their tower.
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A lesson in dicing and cutting other veggies brought in from outdoor gardens, added an extra punch of nutrition and taste.

Connaught PS, grade 4/5 class, teacher Michelle Richardson – prepping their harvest on a field trip to the Parkdale Food Centre, to be creatively displayed as a Mason Jar Salad with Chef Simon Bell to surprise family at the evening meal.

Dovercourt Community Centre with their after school youth program, harvested 2,700 grams of fresh gourmet lettuce!
img_2138 The youth went on to prepare 18 bags of lettuce, 150 grams per bag, sold for $4.00 per bag. The $72.00 earned will go back into their program for field trips and other educational tools.

This is just the beginning. Food and Finance: Growing
Futures
, is a program that will not only provide wholesome food to our youth, but it will spark desire to eat healthier in life and to understand the importance of food. The children and youth will learn and see the connection between healthy bodies and healthy minds, energy and happiness. They will appreciate healthy food and the connections it is bringing to them in their communities. Confidence around financial literacy will instil the power in our younger generation to follow their dreams and become the entrepreneurs of the future.

 

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

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 

 

Neighbor Advisory Committee Meeting

Recently, we have started the Neighbor Advisory Committee so that the staff, volunteers and board members can better understand how we are affecting change for the 700+ neighbors that we serve in our catchment area. The first two meetings have provided a lot of feedback as to what is going well and what could be improved.

So far we only have four members, but they have truly opened our eyes, while providing a unique perspective on the events and projects that happen at the Parkdale Food Centre.

We hope to provide regular updates as to what is happening regarding these meetings.

Website Changes

The members who have attended have voiced their concerns over the lack of information regarding our food bank hours on the front page. A lot of people who need access ask their workers from Ontario Works or other networks about where they can access services like the food bank, showers, cooking classes, drop in lunches, or storage lockers. In the age of technology where almost everyone has access to the internet, this information is best kept at everyone’s fingertips. A calendar of events that is user friendly and regularly updated is also helpful for our neighbors in need.

Neighbors Feel Included and Not Judged

On the positive side, neighbors also appreciate how much this centre has removed a lot of stigma that surrounds people who need to access the food bank. They feel that they are included in activities and the general goings on. They love that volunteers are understanding of everyone’s background, whether it is because they are low income, living in the shelter, or are living with mental health issues. It’s great to see that the environment we have created is appreciated by those who use it.

Visit Reviews or Testimonials

A very interesting idea that was put forth was to add a user experience rating section or page where testimonials can be added. It was mentioned that some people are afraid to use the food bank for fear of being judged. There is still severe stigma that surrounds those who are forced to use food bank, and we want to advertise that they do not have to worry about coming in.

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

Volunteer perspective: Community Meals @ PFC

CommunityMeal

Once a month on a Friday night, Wendy Hepburn, Assistant Director with Citizenship and Multiculturalism, helps to organize a community meal at the Parkdale Food Centre in Ottawa. Community meals support the Food Centre’s goals to provide fresh, wholesome food to people in need, as well as teach members of the community how to cook healthy and delicious meals with simple ingredients.

As part of her volunteer duties, Wendy comes up with the menu and identifies a few dishes suitable for 25 to 30 volunteers and clients to make together. Preparation can include washing and peeling vegetables, cutting fruit, making dough and setting the table. Wendy loves watching people connect while they collaborate in the kitchen.

“Everyone gets a chance to learn and contribute,” she says. “Clients are teaching volunteers and volunteers are teaching clients.”

The community meals are about more than just providing good food for those who can’t afford it. They help people in need connect and socialize with their neighbours, fostering mental health as much as physical health.

“I find people really enjoy having something to look forward to on a Friday night.” Wendy says. “Sharing a meal and engaging with people in the community is pretty special. It helps fight isolation and loneliness, for volunteers and clients alike.”

Repost of article from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s daily internal newsletter Today@CIC. Published with permission.

Introducing Thirteen Muesli: the faces behind the Social Enterprise

Last month we told you a bit about the Muesli Project — and this month we’re back to introduce the team behind this social enterprise. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, you can visit their website at www.thirteenmuesli.com

We are thirteen teenagers with a business. Not much money. Lots of heart. A vision for a healthier future. For all of us.

 

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AYAN
Hi, I’m Ayan. My parents were born in Somalia. I was born in Holland in 1999. I speak Dutch. My mother and I brought my two younger sisters and baby brother to Canada in September 2014. I dream of a bright future.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility. It will help fund my education, change my life, send me to law school.

 

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GHITA
Hi, I’m Ghita.
I was born in Morocco in 2000. We came to Canada when I was 8 years old.
My mother is a nurse. But not here.
I am an only child.
I am a student in the International Baccalaureate Program.
Maybe one day I will be your doctor.
Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile.
This business is my responsibility.

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KEJAH
Hi, I’m Kejah. I was born in Ottawa. Most of my relatives are from Britain, Trinidad and Jamaica. I have one sister. I am the oldest. We are homeschooled. I live in Rochester Heights. But just because you live in the ‘hood doesn’t mean you have to stay in the ‘hood.
One day I will be a neurosurgeon. Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility. The next time you pick up a box of sugary cereal or processed granola I bet you will wonder, “Why not muesli ?”

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DAIJAH
Hi, I’m Daijah. I was born in Ottawa in 2001. Most of my relatives are from Britain, Trinidad and Jamaica. I have one sister. I am the youngest. We are homeschooled.

I dance. You can read my mind when I dance.
Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile.
This business is my responsibility. It is limited only by my imagination.
I dream large.

 

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DAVID
Hi, I’m David. I was born in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo and lived in Uganda before coming to Canada as a refugee in 2013.
There are 12 people in my family.
I speak 3 languages well – English, Kiswahili, Lugando – and I am learning French.
Soccer is my game.
Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile.
This business is my responsibility.
All the money I earn from it will be spent on my education

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DASHA
Hi, I’m Dasha. I was born in Ottawa in 1996. Most of my life I have lived in Ukraine. I live in an apartment with my mother and younger sister.

I have a job. I love to draw.
One day I will be a doctor.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile.
This business is my responsibility.
Believe in me.

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GLODIE
I am Glodie. I was born in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo and lived in Uganda before coming to Canada as a refugee in 2013. There are 12 people in my family. I have a job. In 2016 I will go to university. One day I will be a lawyer.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility.

 

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LANDRY
I am Landry. I was born in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo and lived in Uganda before coming to Canada as a refugee in 2013. There are 12 people in my family.

I play the piano without knowing how to read music. I take every opportunity to learn. One day I will be a doctor.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility.

 

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THIENA
I am Thiena. I was born in Burundi, where my parents still live. I came to Canada with my aunt. We live in a family shelter. I am now a University of Ottawa student. One day I will be an anesthesiologist.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility.

 

 

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KEREN
I am Keren. I was born in Belgium in 2001. Both of my parents were born in Congo. We came to Canada in April 2015. I love basketball, dance and music.

I am learning English, but speak fluent French and Dutch. 

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility.

 

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SUMMER
I am Summer. I was born in Ottawa in 1997.

I am a mother. I dream art.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility.

 

 

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EMMA
I am Emma. I was born in Belgium. My parents were born in Congo.

Music makes me move. African dance is in my heart. I’m very social, and adore spending time with those I love. I am learning English. Practise with me.

Now I am one of Thirteen: A Social Enterprise. We proudly create, market and sell small batch, handcrafted muesli. It is healthy, convenient and versatile. This business is my responsibility.

 

– – –

Huge thanks to JVL Photography for generously taking photographs of the entire Thirteen Muesli team.

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.