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COVID-19: Food educators, chefs pumping out thousands of meals for people in need

Randy Shore

https://vancouversun.com/news/covid-19-food-educators-chefs-pumping-out-thousands-of-meals-for-people-in-need/wcm/ed146a8f-a077-4103-84b3-1f6b5ae935da/

There is no shortage of hungry people to feed in a city hobbled by the COVID-19 lockdown and that has spawned a massive network of people working for the common good.

LunchLAB launched last year to show kids how to grow and prepare food and by spring break more than 40 students had rotated through their cook’s training program, feeding 180 of their classmates twice a week.

So, when in-class instruction was suspended across B.C., the partners — Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, Growing Chefs!, Vancouver school board, and Ono Vancouver chef TJ Conwi — quickly pivoted to provide meals to hundreds of families.

That’s more than 5,500 meals a week for families identified by the VSB’s youth and family workers, said Alexa Pitoulis, interim executive director of Fresh Roots.

“We weren’t sure what we would do going into spring break, but our brains started turning and we worked out a way to support the school board’s effort to feed families that would have been benefiting from school lunch programs,” she said.





The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Adopt-A-School program contributed $20,000 through the VSB to help scale-up the renamed LunchLAB: Chefs for Families.When Pitoulis reached out to Mario Micelli, executive director of the Italian Cultural Centre, for some kitchen space he did them one better, offering up the Centre’s spacious catering kitchen and the ballroom, where food is packaged for pickup and delivery.“We have a large commercial kitchen where people can work and maintain social distancing,” he said“We were already in a partnership with Fresh Roots supporting distribution of school-grown food for families to pick up and we love that because there is nothing more Italian than preparing way too much food and sharing it with family and friends,” said Micelli. “I can’t believe the huge number of volunteers that have come out to accomplish all this.”ICC chef Jackson Noah and his team are also working for the cause.Food suppliers Yen Bros. and Gordon Food Service have supplied pallet after pallet of surplus food to keep the operation flush with raw materials.“They way people have come together to help out vulnerable families has been incredibly satisfying for us to be a part of,” said Micelli.You can make tax-deductible donations to LunchLAB through Fresh Roots or Growing Chefs!The Italian Cultural Centre is supplying ready-to-eat meals to the Grandview-Woodland Food Connection and Britannia Community Centre for people living in isolation.Conwi is also operating a satellite kitchen generously offered by Pacific Restaurant Supply, where he had been cooking for displaced restaurant workers.

“PRS said yeah, you can keep cooking here and lent me the space,” he said. “So, we just started cooking for people, whoever needs it, in the Downtown Eastside and we just kept scaling up.”

That food is flowing out to the LunchLAB: Chefs for Families program, the Aboriginal Mother Centre, and the Carnegie Community Action Project, which recently received 300 pizzas and 200 tubs of macaroni and cheese.

The commercial kitchen at The Dirty Apron has been serving up 2,000 meals a week since the cooking school and deli were put on hiatus.

Chef David Robertson and many of his staff are donating their time to prepare free meals for seniors who cannot safely leave their homes, residents of SRO hotels and other vulnerable communities. They are working in collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Community College and Whole Way House.

Robertson’s crew is also supplying meals to frontline workers at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital through Feed the Frontline.

Salmon farmers Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood, Mowi Canada and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating 27,000 kilograms of salmon to food banks on Vancouver Island.

About 10,000 British Columbians depend on food banks and that demand is rising, according to Laura Lansink, executive director of Food Banks B.C.

“In some instances, numbers have already doubled and we’re seeing line ups grow longer, yet food donations are down. Some people who were donors are now food bank recipients,” she said. “It’s a very stressful situation for our food banks and we anticipate we will feel the repercussions of this for one or two years into the future.”

rshore@postmedia.com

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We’re Still Farming~A Fresh Roots COVID-19 Update

Dear Fresh Roots Community,

Like many of you, we are closely following COVID-19 developments and taking steps to keep our team and all those we work with healthy. We hope you and yours are safe and well during this time. We wanted to share what’s happening here at Fresh Roots.

Most importantly, our team is working to ensure our farms will be growing more rather than less food this season to feed you, your families and our community. Food is an essential service and a strong local food system is more important now than ever.

Signing up for a Fresh Roots Veggie Box is a great way to access weekly, hyper-local produce! Sign up today or inquire to see how you could buy a Veggie Box to be donated, email food@freshroots.ca to learn more.

With the announcement of indefinite school closures, we’ve suspended all of our school-based programming, including field trips and field classes until school reopens. This also includes the LunchLAB program we run in partnership with Growing Chefs!. We happily look forward to re-scheduling these programs once safe to do so.

At this time we are planning on running our summer SOYL youth leadership and empowerment program and kids camps as planned. Youth registration for SOYL is open until the end of April at: https://freshroots.ca/get-involved/soyl/ and camp registration is ongoing at: https://freshroots.ca/education/camp/.

We continue to monitor the situation and recommendations by the health authorities and will communicate any further adaptations and plans to Fresh Roots programs to you all as the situation develops. The safety of our community comes first. We have communicated to our partners that we are here to help support the kids, youth and families in our communities through these challenging times.

We are also working creatively to look into how we can support distance learning for classes and families. Maybe a virtual farm tour for your kids or class? A “meet a farmer or chef” program? Lesson plans you can use or share? We’d love any suggestions you may have! Follow us on social media to learn about upcoming online resources, tools, and program ideas.

We greatly appreciate all the support our community has given to ensure the continued success of Fresh Roots – thank you!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at info@freshroots.ca or by phone at 778-764-0DIG (0344).

With a fistful of hopeful sunshine,

Alexa and the Fresh Roots team