Toronto

Regent Park food workshops bring community together, teach new culinary skills

A series of workshops at the Regent Park Community Food Centre are all about bringing a neighbourhood together while learning a new skill in the kitchen.

The workshops at Regent Park Community Food Centre are part of a host of programs around food security

Pamela Neblett says she's met many new people in her neighbourhood through the programming at Regent Park Community Food Centre. (Talia Ricci / CBC News)

Pamela Neblett heard there would be a pie making workshop in her neighbourhood, she signed up right away.

"I love pie," the Regent Park resident exclaimed. "My problem is I do not know how to make the crust."

She'll be learning that crucial skill at the Regent Park Community Food Centre on Oak Street near Gerrard Street East and Parliament Street. It's part of a series of workshops focused on food security.  

The food skills programs are free-of-charge and include a light snack or meal as well as food to take home. 

Neblett says the benefits go beyond gaining new culinary skills.

"I get to meet new people. This is a great way of getting involved with your community," she said.

"Although I live not far from here, I never knew this existed."

Building relationships

Emma Palumbo, the food skills coordinator at the Regent Park Community Food Centre, asked participants for feedback on what type of programming they would like to see in 2018 and an overwhelming number of people requested to learn how to make pie.

​"I think when we come together in these workshops, some of them have different aims but we are building relationships together here too and I think that's one of the most meaningful things that happen," Palumbo said.

The centre addresses the extreme isolation of poverty, and how building social connections through food helps residents form new relationships and connect with resources in their community.

Emma Palumbo, food skills coordinator with the Regent Park Community Food Centre, says the idea for a pie making workshop came from the participants. (Talia Ricci / CBC News)

In the kitchen at the centre, about a dozen participants peeled fruit, kneaded the crust and prepared the toppings. Palumbo helped lead the process. She says there's a wide range of benefits to programs like this.

"It's about food security, food justice and challenging poverty," she said.

"When we get together, we sit down, we eat a meal together, people are laughing, sharing stories and meeting new people."

The pie making workshop is part of the food skills series running all year. Topics range from nutrition, urban agriculture and cooking from scratch. 

Reducing food waste 

The berries, apples, peaches, apricots and cherries for the pie filling were all harvested locally through Not Far from the Tree — a Toronto-based fruit picking project.

Lauren Ramsay, program manager with Not Far from the Tree, encourages minimizing food waste all year round. (Talia Ricci / CBC News)

L​auren Ramsay, the program manager, says one third of the fruit that's harvested is given back to various agencies across the city, such as food banks.

"Our role is helping to reduce food waste and ensuring food that's perfectly edible, totally natural ... is put to good use," Ramsay said.

Not Far from the Tree picks fruit all across Toronto, and now they're ensuring none of the leftovers go to waste. (Talia Ricci / CBC News)

Ramsay stresses the importance of continuing to practise minimizing food waste even after fruit picking season is over.

"We really encourage that even though picking season happens throughout the summer, that folks are thinking about sustaining themselves with the fruit they've harvested through things like preserving, canning, drying."

The workshop's plan was to produce 44 pies. Many will be donated to the overdose prevention sites in Moss Park. 

About the Author

Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She's from Guelph and has also reported in London and Winnipeg. From the Middle East to West Africa, Talia has travelled around the globe volunteering and photographing. She enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she's not reporting, you can find Talia creating recipes for her plant based food blog.