‘MAGIC AT WORK’
Toronto high school leads cook-off of 5,000 meals for local shelters
Students, professional chefs, and the aroma of roast beef filled the cafeteria at Thistletown Collegiate Institute on Saturday, as about 100 volunteers prepared thousands of hot meals for shelters and food banks across the city.
Each month for the past five years, Thistletown teacher and chef Keith Hoare and his culinary arts students have prepared dozens of dinners for local shelters. But on Saturday, their efforts to help those struggling with food insecurity became much more ambitious.
Thanks to a donation from a new meat company, they aimed to cook and package 5,000 hot meals for local shelters and food banks to pick up by the end of the day.
“What’s happening in the kitchen is magic at work,” said Suzana Greenaway, principal of Thistletown in Rexdale. “It’s wonderful to see people supporting humanitarian causes and hopefully making a difference in the lives of many with these nutritious meals and the message that we care.”
Barbecued pork chops, sirloin, halal beef, ribs and roast beef, paired with sides of pasta, mashed potatoes and other cooked vegetables, were among the meals prepared by a dozen professional chefs and Hoare’s Grade 11 and 12 students.
Hoare said this was made possible because Wild Fork, a meat and seafood company, donated enough meat to feed 10,000 people — half of
‘‘We’re teaching empathy and charitable work. Even though some of our students might be socio-economically challenged, they also realize that there’s people that may be worse off than they are.
KEITH HOARE THISTLETOWN COLLEGIATE TEACHER AND CHEF
which they prepared on Saturday, while the rest will be cooked at later donation events or given directly to food banks.
Due to the size of the donation, Hoare reached out to his network of professional chefs, students involved in the Kiwanis Key Club, George Brown College students, and other student volunteers from Grades 9 through 12 across the Toronto District School Board to ensure all the food would be prepared and packaged in time.
“When you get up to this kind of volume, you need to bring in some big guns,” he said.
Food insecurity is a growing concern for many city residents amid heightened financial pressure — one in 10 rely on food banks to get by, a rise of 20 per cent in the past year.
Eleven Toronto-area food banks and shelters, including Good Shepherd and Ernestine’s women’s shelter, picked up the meals Saturday afternoon.
Before the food was ready to pick up, it underwent an assembly-line preparation and packing process. On Thursday and Friday, culinary arts students took charge of advance preparations: peeling vegetables, making sauces and marinating meat.
Although the professional chefs led the food preparation on Saturday, other volunteers, including Grade 11 culinary arts student Shampita Barua, were constantly in motion around the cafeteria, ferrying items between the fridges, kitchen and preparation tables in the cafeteria.
Barua got involved initially to see if she might like to become a professional chef after graduation, and is proud to be part of feeding thousands of people when they need it most.
“I have never seen this much food, to be honest,” Barua said.
Hoare says the donation from Wild Fork will fuel thousands more meals through several other donation cook-offs in the weeks to come: one next weekend at Eden Community Food Bank in Mississauga, and another in December led by Humber College.
He sees these events as not just opportunities to give back, but to show his students the impact their actions can have on the community.
“We’re teaching empathy and charitable work,” he said. “Even though some of our students might be socio-economically challenged, they also realize that there’s people that may be worse off than they are.”
Wild Fork, a meat and seafood company, donated enough meat to feed 10,000 people — half of which was prepared on Saturday. The rest will be cooked at later donation events or given directly to food banks
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited