Chef Keith Hoare, head of Thistletown Collegiate's culinary program, along with colleagues from the area’s culinary community, has created and delivered thousands of pounds in meals to shelters and food banks around Etobicoke.
Together with chefs John and Judie Placko, Joanne Hebert, Joanna Sable, and Charlotte Langley, Hoare has been directing nutritious meals made of what could have been food waste to places where it is desperately needed. They saw the number of food-insecure families in the area grow because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that has resulted.
Donations streamed in from places like Sobeys, The Chef’s Warehouse, Ace Bakery – and the Humber College culinary labs.
“Now that we’re back in class, a lot of product we used to sell through Gourmet Express, our retail store, we now put it to good use in these shelters.,” said Rudi Fischbacher, associate dean, Faculty of Business.
“Whatever the classes cook that day, we pack it up and ship it.”
The baking program donates everything created in the labs.
“We had a whole bunch of baked goods the other day – croissants, rolls, all good stuff they can use. We also send finished meals we’re producing on the culinary side,” said Fischbacher.
Every packaged meal contains a protein, vegetable and starch. Soups are divided into one-litre containers for easy transport.
Nine Humber culinary and baking labs are supporting Hoare’s project.
‘A real sense of community and pride’
Hoare has been coordinating shelter dinners for years, feeding 200 people at a time at different shelters in Etobicoke.
Every month he would take food waste and turn it into a hot, healthy meal for the shelter’s patrons.
Then, COVID-19 made shelter dinners impossible as the number of hungry people grew.
Teesha Persaud, who graduated from Humber’s Baking and Pastry Arts Management diploma program in 2017, soon came aboard.
She knew Hoare and his wife, Chef Joanne Hebert. Hebert was Persaud’s hospitality teacher in high school.
Last year, Persaud volunteered to create a dessert table at one of the shelter dinners. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the GTA, the couple contacted Persaud and told her they had extra product they wanted to use to help those who are experiencing food insecurity, and if she could help pull together some desserts.
“I was baking at home and packaging up desserts which were then donated to shelters,” she said.
“Throughout everything, I still had security in terms of where I was living, my family, food-wise. Other people don’t have that privilege.”
Soon, the new cohort of culinary and baking students joined Persaud in creating and packaging whatever they made in class.
“Throughout the summer we created 30,000 meals and desserts packaged individually for food banks and shelters. A lot of that food came from the Humber College culinary and baking programs,” said Hoare.
He praises Humber’s programs for the hands-on education they provided, as well as the role the faculty and students are playing in a food security initiative that redirects food waste and helps vulnerable and marginalized people.
“Knowing they’re giving back to the community as they practice in school, that should give them a real sense of community and pride,” said Hoare.
Humber College’s Culinary and Baking programs will continue to support the food security initiative as much as possible as the school year – and the pandemic - progresses.