The Unemployed Help Centre's community kitchen is officially open for business and it was standing-room only at the ribbon cutting.
For Unemployed Help Centre CEO June Muir, the kitchen was a long time coming.
The grand opening of their state of the art community kitchen is the last step of the Plentiful Harvest Program that started with a refrigerated truck, according to Unemployed Help Centre board member Gary Parent.
"Once we got that [the truck] we could finally rescue fruits and vegetables from our friends in the county," said Parent. "With that the vision got bigger."
Plentiful Harvest uses the refrigerated truck to gather food that couldn't be sold by farmers, food processors, restaurants, banquet halls, caterers, and puts it to use rather than letting it end up in landfills.
More than half of the estimated $27 billion of food wasted across the country ends up as unwanted leftovers dropped into household trash bins, according to The Cut Waste, Grow Profit draft report from the Ontario-based Value Chain Management Centre.
But with the addition of a walk in freezer, and their new kitchen, the program may put a dent in that number, Parent said.
Chef Robert Catherine from the Greater Essex County District School Board took over the kitchen on Thursday and enlisted the help of students across the city.
He said students and apprentices will turn rescued food into 200 meals every day for VON's Meals on Wheels and close to 6,000 snacks for school breakfast programs.
The chef said students also benefit.
"Apprentices can get their books signed off. Students are getting the credits they need to graduate, and we have at-risk students that were not attending, and they come every day. That's the big part," Catherine said.
They also help process the thousands of pounds of produce that come in every day so it can be shipped out to area food banks.
"I actually really like doing this, it's a lot better than school that's for sure," said student Alex Smith. "It's actually really surprising how much food comes in that would have been thrown away. I feel really good about helping the community."