Besides sleeping and breathing, the need for a good meal is something we all share.
Unfortunately, not all foods are accessible. And the cheaper the food, the less nutritious, resulting in a large portion of our population lacking what they need to live nutritionally balanced lives.
Enter: Loving Spoonful – and its 250 volunteers – that give the less fortunate in Kingston what they need.
Loving Spoonful‘s Executive Director Mara Shaw reflects on the positive impact on the community. “Last year we provided 70,000 pounds of food to the community and that’s equivalent to about 70,000 meals. That’s about 7000 people that are being fed through the food that we deliver, then there’s another 250 kids in schools through the grow programs. Last year there were about 140 people who took our cooking classes.”
It’s clear Loving Spoonful does more than just deliver food. Teaching is how they make sure their initiatives making nutritious foods accessible do not go to waste.
Shaw elaborates, “We have cooking classes and figure out how to fund them so that people have more than enough. People can take home that butternut squash macaroni and cheese to their families and they can try butternut squash which they otherwise wouldn’t have tried. The next time we bring butternut squash to a pantry, people will take it home because they know what to do with it.”
On a sunny, spring day when I arrive at First Ave Public School, Food Skills Co-ordinator Sarah Keyes is mapping out the garden and getting ready to school the students on ecology and stewardship with RadKids’ founder and farmer by trade, Marie Bencze. After a lesson, they plant a spring crop that will later be harvested and enjoyed amongst the grade 4/5s with a salad bar.
“This program is not just about teaching them about gardening per say. It’s more about teaching them about community and stewardship and taking responsibility for what they’ve put in the ground. A lot of this produce gets donated to our shelter’s meal programs,” says Keyes.
Loving Spoonful is also responsible for “Cook, Camera, Action!” a program that teaches young adults how to cook nutritious foods and also allows them to flex their creativity with a local filmmakers, encouraging them to get out of their shell with fun tutorial videos.
Volunteer driver of 8 years, Pan Donlon, explains how she joined the cause, “I was off work for a while and that’s when I saw the ad [to volunteer]. When I went back to work I said the only day I can’t come is Thursdays.” Thursdays are for food deliveries from local grocers like Freshco and the kitchen of the Donald Gordon centre to local shelters like Elizabeth Fry and Saint Vincent de Paul. “It makes you feel good. It makes you feel really, really, good”
And it’s appreciated. Shaw shares a heart-warming story that underscores how much, “We had just come from the farmer’s market so a whole hatchback of fresh produce and [the shelter’s] staff took what they wanted and took them inside and as they were pulling away, a youth came out and said ‘Thank you for saving our lives!’”
*Interviews for this story were conducted Spring of 2016