Toronto top chefs joining forces to feed the hungry

30 of Toronto's top restaurants will donate from 50 % to 100 % of their dinner proceeds on October 18 to the Community Food Centres Canada

30 of Toronto's top restaurants will donate the proceeds of their Oct. 18 dinner sales to food programs

Restaurants For Change says they have raised close to $600,000 for empowering programs that provide access to healthy food since 2014. (CBC)

If there's one thing chefs love to do - it's feed people. This month, that takes on a whole new meaning.

More than thirty of the city's top restaurants are taking part in Restaurants for Change. That includes restaurants like Bar Isabel, Fat Pasha, The Drake Hotel and Richmond Station.

On October 18, they will donate sales from their dinner service to Community Food Centres Canada. The organization provides emergency access to food for residents in low-income neighbourhoods. But it also teaches cooking and gardening skills to empower communities.

'You just go out for dinner'

"It's a national fundraiser for Community Food Centres Canada and best of all, it's really simple. You just go out for dinner." explains Nick Saul, president and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada.

CFC launched in Toronto in 2012. There are centres in Davenport Village and Regent Park as well as in cities across the country.

Proceeds from dinner sales at 30 Toronto restaurants on Oct 18 will go to Community Food Centres Canada. (Restaurants For Change)

Food security and social justice has been Saul's passion for decades.

"In my heart, the thing that motivated me the most was this idea of dignity. If you're struggling to put food on the table, you shouldn't feel ashamed or embarrassed." he says. "And when you go for help you should walk into a space that is about generosity, that is about respect."

66-thousand meals served in Regent Park every year

There are 187 allotment gardens in and around Regent Park. They're filled with crops both native to Ontario - but also brought in from other countries.  The gardens are planted and tended to by residents, many of whom are newcomers to Canada. This week, volunteers harvested tomatillos, Indian chilies, beets and carrots.

"You hear the adage you give a man a fish he eats for a day you teach him how to fish he eats for life." says Enloe Wilson, director of development for Regent Park's CRC. "What we want to do is to sort of be that emergency relief but also to teach sustainability around dietary autonomy."

There are 187 allotment gardens in and around Regent Park to 'help build sustainability around dietary autonomy,' says Enloe Wilson, the program's director. (CBC)

It's a combined effort to give a hand up, rather than a hand out, to people who need it.

"I think the ultimate goal of good agency is to put itself out of work in service to the community in terms of trying to create a situation where community members can sustain themselves and enjoy their own socioeconomic mobility," says Wilson.

For Nick Saul, it comes back to food. "There's nothing more dignified than putting in front of a person, a beautiful meal that's been cooked with a lot of love and care because it reflects back at that person." Saul says. "I think when people eat that food they say I'm worth something, I matter and I have something to contribute and so that's often the way that journey begins in our Community Food Centres."

About the Author

Marivel Taruc

Host of Our Toronto

Marivel Taruc is an award-winning journalist and weekend anchor of CBC Saturday, and CBC Toronto News at 11 on Sundays. She is also the host of Our Toronto. Marivel graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. She is happiest when she's gathered around the dinner table with her husband and two daughters - and a plateful of Filipino food.