June 22, 2017

FoodTalk | Creating Health Plus Training

by Alvin Rebick

Can you imagine feeding 1200 people a delicious, nutritious meal every day, using largely donated ingredients? What if it’s the only meal those people will eat that day? Or maybe you’re tasked with feeding 400 people daily with a budget of $100 per month for special ingredients like oil and salt. What if the Second Harvest truck arrives and the only vegetable available is beets and the older men who largely populate this particular drop-in won’t eat beets no matter how hungry they are? What if the women’s shelter kitchen that you run is open 24 hours a day because the need is so great? How do you coordinate cooks, food orders, donations, menus, recipes, volunteers and the very special dynamics that this emergency situation requires? These are the challenges that the chefs and cooks who work in the agencies that Creating Health Plus supports every day. How do they do it? With grit, wit, energy, stamina and commitment.

Creating Health Plus (CH+) augments the healthy food available at non-profit agencies serving meals to people who live in poverty and face food insecurity in the Greater Toronto Area. Through recommendations made by dieticians, the program purchases and delivers five key food items to participating drop-in agencies: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, milk, yogurt and eggs. Another aspect of CH+ is to provide professional development, in the form of a healthy food training, to the cooks and chefs who work daily to feed the many people who access their services.

CH+, in partnership with FoodReach and a holistic nutritionist/chef, Kate Chemij, designed a series of workshops to explore healthy options for feeding community members who access the drop-in centres and shelters that comprise CH+. We believe that everyone is entitled to eat healthy, delicious food served with dignity. If the cooking can impact on health outcomes in a positive way then everyone wins.

Creating Health Plus training

Those individuals tasked with feeding large numbers of people who are marginalized by poverty are a special breed. Tough, hard-working, resilient and determined to do the most with the least. Often with lived experience themselves, these chefs are on the front line of making a difference to the lives of people living on the street. These workshops are designed to take the time to explore cooking options that might otherwise be overlooked by the sheer need to get the job done. We know that no matter what your life situation, you have food preferences and choices. People who suffer food insecurity are no different than anyone else when it comes to knowing what they like. Customers like any other but with special needs due to their life circumstances. The goal of these workshops is to take a fresh look at healthy cooking techniques through the lens of limited food resources in order to get the best outcomes with the food at hand. They are also geared to bringing together this hard working group of professionals who toil daily to make a difference in the lives of others.

The first workshop was a great success. Participants shared “war stories” of their lives in the trenches of non-profit cooking with wisdom and humour. In doing so they all contributed to the approaches we’ll take in future workshops. It’s exciting to take a fresh look at traditional recipes, to understand the value of ingredients that pack a real nutritional punch and share your experiences. It’s surprising how much fun it is to cook along with others and share food and conversation with folks who do what you do. We are all looking forward to the next session.

To see more photos from the Creating Health Plus training sessions, please check out the photo album on our Facebook page

Creating Health Plus training


FoodTalk – Thoughts on food and food issues from FoodReach’s lineup of passionate contributors.

Alvin Rebick  

About Alvin:

Alvin Rebick has spent most of his career working with food, including owning and operating six restaurants, all listed in ‘Where to Eat in Canada’. Alvin also co-authored two nationally-released cookbook-memoirs with his wife and business partner, Glenna. Over the past eight years Alvin has worked in the non-profit sector to increase and improve access to fresh vegetables and fruits in the hopes of bringing the best possible food to all. He is currently the Project Leader of FoodReach.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed within this FoodTalk post belong solely to the original author/contributor. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of FoodReach, its staff, members or Board, its business partners, funders or other contributors.

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