Iögo and Food Network chef Lynn Crawford team up to support Community Kitchens

Packaging our meals after our class at the Stop Community Food Centre.

Nothing is better than sharing a good meal with friends and family – and even more so when you’ve had a role in preparing it. Unfortunately, there are three million people in Canada who are food-insecure. And as Nick Saul, president of Community Food Centres in Canada, says, Food banks are not always the most nutritious option. That is why, with the help of Ultima Foods, Iögo is launching a mission to support community kitchens across Canada with, “iögo, supporting goodness.”

Their plan is to bring communities together with informative classes that teach how to prepare healthy food that students can carry home to their families. Participants get a chance to be a part of the process of preparing and packaging their meal without the preconceived notions of shame that go along with visiting a food bank. As Saul says, “It’s not just a hand out. Everyone participates at their own pace.”

Stop Community Food Centre is just one of 2,000 community kitchens across Canada and a place where those in need not only get the food they need – they learn new skills, meet new people and build self-esteem once they’ve completed and packaged their nutritious meal.

Community Kitchen’s supporter and Food Network chef Lynn Crawford says of the program, “I only do things that are real and from the heart. And that’s what this is. I say let’s build more. Let’s celebrate food.”

President and CEO of Ultima Foods Gerry Doutre says they are doing all they can to nourish this program with five crucial components: financially through donations, donating iögo products, visibility [television campaign] and a corporate volunteer program. 235 employees from the company will donate 1,880 volunteer hours annually to cook up to 6,000 portions for local community kitchens.

After spending the morning cooking at one of the five Stop Community Food Centres in Toronto with chef Scott McLean and Crawford, I saw first-hand what all of the fuss is about, learning kitchen tips that I will use and share with others in the future.

While making our pesto for our macaroni salad, Chef McLean informed us that pumpkin seeds are a great alternative to pine nuts as not as many people are allergic to them. And instead of rinsing your pasta, he suggested laying it out on a pan to keep the flavour and to drizzle olive oil on top to ensure the noodles don’t stick together.

Just last year, more than 7,000 meals were made in The Stop’s community kitchens program.

If you would like to support the program and get some great recipes, Ultima foods is selling its cookbook for $19.99 with a portion of the proceeds going to community kitchens. Click here to purchase a book.