By Stephanie White –
The future looks bright in 2019 for the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC), a recent recipient of the Ottawa Sustainability Fund. Initiated in 2006, The Ottawa Sustainability Fund is a philanthropic fund of the Ottawa Community Foundation that has contributed over $100,000 to local charity community projects.
The $9,680 grant, awarded by EnviroCentre, will help fund the expansion of Growing Futures’ Solutionary Workshop Program so that it will be available to more youth. For the past three years, this program has offered three one-hour hands-on workshops for students in grades four to six every Monday. These workshops aim to inspire, engage and equip children on the topics of access to healthy food, social determinants of health, and community activism.
With the new funding, the PFC will expand the program to include youth 12-16 years old. The goal is to provide local children with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive.
Elle Crevits is the PFC Growing Futures project lead. “We believe that we can make this happen, starting with our youngest neighbors,” she says.
The program will encourage the students to become problem solvers and will address the many aspects that contribute to health that go beyond diet and exercise, such as income, education, employment, and physical environment.
The workshop leaders will reframe community problems so that students can understand how they can make an impact. One goal for the young people is to be able to see themselves as part of a larger community. Workshop participants will be encouraged to think about issues such as food access. Other topics for discussion include the well-being of others, such as those not having enough food, and how it might be changed. The youth will also learn kitchen skills, how to make soup from scratch, and how to write letters to local politicians.
According to food centre staff, they have seen a positive change in the behavior of the participants since the workshops started, as well as increased community engagement. For example, one group of students took an unused greenhouse at their high school and started growing food for the community.
The workshops are making a big difference by empowering young people. The impact of the workshops is also being noticed by parents and by one local teacher who said, “This brings out the best in my kids; ideas, skill, teamwork and engagement.” The whole class feels like they are part of a collective positive change.
Currently, there are over 950 households in Hintonburg that access the resources available at the PFC. As such, while there is a suggested donation of $2 per youth to take part in this program, the PFC won’t allow money to be a barrier for anyone who wants to attend. Moving forward, the PFC hopes to offer other practical resources to more people to help solve some of the most pressing issues in the community.
For more information, see parkdalefoodcentre.ca.
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- This feature is brought to you in part by Catherine McKenna, MP Ottawa Centre.