Alfredo Ilagan is one of the first students honing his skills in a new baking class, part of a training and employment initiative that recently started at Winnipeg Harvest, Manitoba's largest food bank.

"I love to cook," said Ilagan, who came to Canada from the Phillipines in 2009.


Alfredo Ilagan makes Christmas Coffee Cake in the kitchen at Winnipeg Harvest. (Margaux Watt)

Ilagan is among the nearly 3,000 volunteers and clients who have received job training through Winnipeg Harvest since 2012.

After working for years in the galleys of commercial vessels and container ships, he's training to become a line cook on dry land, hopefully in a Winnipeg kitchen.

Ilagan has obtained his food handler certificate through Winnipeg Harvest and now he is learning baking techniques under the watchful eye of instructor Carole Cockrell

"The big thing I love about Harvest is the training program, " Cockrell said, who's leading the baking class, twice a week.

The eight-week course started in November and Cockrell hopes it becomes a permanent part of Harvest's training programming.

'It's good to give back'

Cockrell, who's been baking since she was eight years old, also volunteers at Siloam Mission. "It's good to give back," she said.

Ilagan doesn't rely on the food bank for food, but he likes volunteering at Harvest, which he says has been a nice help to him.


Instructor Carole Cockrell gets the oven ready for the latest creations from her students. (Margaux Watt)

"I want to share my spare time because as of now I'm on EI. I am doing nothing at home," he said. "I'm happy to be here at Winnipeg Harvest, trying to contribute my time."

Along with baking class, Ilagan takes computer lessons at the food bank.

Harvest also offers courses in public speaking, graphic design and warehouse training, which includes forklift operation.

Since January of 2015, the food bank has helped more than 70 clients and volunteers find jobs.

Ilagan hopes to join that number soon. He's enrolled in culinary school next year.

"That's my profession," he said.