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City considers building more than a food bank in east end

A needed food bank in Hamilton's east end should also have a kitchen, and facilities for teaching cooking and healthy eating classes, says Coun. Chad Collins.

Food centre would have room for kitchen and cooking lessons, not just food storage

Coun. Chad Collins and residents from his ward want to build a food bank that also teaches healthy cooking skills in the east end. (Yvon Therialt/CBC)

A food bank in Hamilton's east end should have a kitchen, and facilities for teaching cooking and healthy eating classes, says Coun. Chad Collins.

On Wednesday he'll propose that the city should put up about $400,000 to get the centre built and running for a few years.

The "food centre" goes beyond a food bank, which has been sorely needed in the community since the nearest options are downtown or in Stoney Creek.

The idea has been in the works for a few years, to take food provision for east-end, low-income families past the processed, packaged boxes and cans in a traditional food bank parcel and add in fresh ingredients and room for creativity.

"It's easy to give people a box of food but the key is to make sure that we're teaching people how to make nutritious meals with food," said Brendan Tait, an east-end resident who's been working on the effort for a few years with the East End Food Centre committee.

'The need is definitely there'

Chad Collins is the councillor for Hamilton's Ward 5. He wants to spend about $400,000 getting a food bank and kitchen up and running for three years. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Without those food skills, a family may develop a "reliance on eating out and on convenience foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar as well as reduce the buying power of limited food budgets," 
Collins said in a motion he plans to bring to the city's board of health on Wednesday.

Moreover, the risks of developing chronic disease like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes go up without healthy food and the ability to prepare it. 

Collins proposes the city start a three-year pilot project to run a food centre along with St. Matthew's House, which would oversee the centre for two years, Public Health and residents of his ward, Ward 5.

"The need is definitely there," Tait said. "The stat is close to 50 percent of children under 6 in Riverdale live at or below poverty line, and a full one-third of the population in Riverdale is in poverty." 

Collins wants the city to put up $185,000 in capital costs and $70,000 a year for three years in operating funds to build the centre and its commercial kitchen. The money he has discretion over from the city's area rating fund could be a source of funding, he says in the motion. 

It's not the only food centre effort underway in the city's east end. The McQuesten Urban Farm is planning to expand its urban garden and hopes to also launch a similar food centre with space for education.  

"We want to be able to teach life skills, cooking skills, preserving skills," said Monika Ciolek, one of the organizers of that effort.

Tait said he doesn't see the two centres competing. Both could do a lot to relieve hunger in the east end, he said.

"That's the unfortunate reality," Tait said. "Personally, I'd like to live in a world where food banks aren't required."

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