Holistic Social Change by Maliha Patel

Holistic Social Change by Maliha Patel

I joined the summerlunch+ team during the summer of 2016 after I was directed to this job by a teacher of mine. My team and I planned, prepared, and carried out production that was necessary to get a plate of healthy food in front of the children. The excitement that filled the classrooms when the cart of food rolled in was one of a kind. Witnessing these moments filled me with joy and I couldn’t be any happier to join the team once again this year.

Being a part of the team for the past two years has helped me in many ways. I learned things myself here at summerlunch+ which I wouldn’t have known on my own. I learned how to make use of resources that are appear to be unusable by making them into something new. For example we made a fruit crumble that not very many kids liked. Lisa discovered a way to repurpose the crumble and make it into a fruit bar (similar to a date bar). This skill is important because for many of us it is difficult to attain access to affordable food products which is why it’s important to use anything and everything that is accessible to us. By repurposing un-eaten food our dollar goes farther and we waste less! 

I’m glad to be a part of a team that seeks to create positive change in a holistic way. From making lunches and teaching food literacy to reusing food to create new and exciting recipes, summerlunch+ realizes the interconnectedness of social change. Food needs to be accessible, affordable, and sustainable so that all communities can thrive on a physical and mental level.

Culinary Inspiration and My Experience at summerlunch+ by Mislina Kutlu

Culinary Inspiration and My Experience at summerlunch+ by Mislina Kutlu

Hi my name is mislina. I'm a Marc Garneau student, a summer lunch + employee, and I love to bake. I began baking at school in the hospitality program. I make cakes and decorate them in beautiful designs. I specialize in designing birthday cakes , holiday cakes and event cakes. I often have people asking for my cake designs 2-3 times a day. Over time students began to call me " cake boss “ inspired by the original cake boss, Buddy Valastro.

Buddy Valastro is a big inspiration to my work because of the creative ways he incorporates pop culture symbols and imagination into his cakes (Google Buddy Valastro Birthday Cakes). He teaches me that all my ideas are within my ability to create (See Photo #1). I get my information and learn my skills from youtube and have watched almost all of Buddy's videos.

Although my passion is baking, I have learned how to cook through my position at summerlunch+. My teacher thought this job would be an opportunity to get outside my comfort zone and I’ve learned a lot under the guidance of Lisa Slater.

In addition to my new cooking skills I have also learned how to be a better baker. I use to use measuring cups and spoons for everything but now thanks to Lisa, she teaches me how to use a scale for my accurate measurements and it's much easier and simple when the job requires me to replicate a recipe three times. Consistency is important!

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn from Lisa and enhance my culinary skills. I hope to open my own bakery one day and my experience at summerlunch+ will be an important stepping stone in my career. I’m excited for the next three weeks because I will continue to learn new culinary skills and tips!

Summerlunch+: a unique opportunity to give back to my community by Fajr Ijaz

Summerlunch+: a unique opportunity to give back to my community by Fajr Ijaz

Hi, my name is Fajr and I am one of the many staff working with summerluch+. This is my second year working with summerlunch+ and it's really been a blast. When I first started my job last year, I only did it because it was right in front of my house and I found that convenient. This year, the reason why I chose this job is because I have developed a close relationship with the members of the team and also with the children we provide the food to. Seeing those kids happy when they see delicious food come through the door is why I really like my job. Normally when I try to help people in need I do it with a mask on. For example, when I donate money online or give clothes to charity I sometimes wonder if my money even reaches the people that I wish to help. That makes me sad to know that I tried helping but I may not have made a change or that maybe I could have done something better. I'm sure that many people are also sceptical of where their money ends up and if it even helps the individual they intend to support. When I give food to the kids in the Thorncliffe community I feel like what I'm doing has an impact because I’m able to see with my own eyes what positive outcome my involvement is bringing about and this is what makes summerlunch+ stand out from other non-profit organizations. When I get to experience helping people out first hand , I say to myself, “Fajr, this is your first step to changing the world. One step at a time.” and I feel blessed to be feeding kids in need of help, providing them with all the right nutrients that they need so that one day those same kids can grow healthy and happy. Kids may not always be aware of what is healthy for them. With our summer lunch program they learn about the necessary food groups and values that they should intake in order to eat a balanced healthy daily meal. Since they are still young, they will grasp the idea of healthy eating from an early age by bringing it into practice in their daily routine. They can become the next healthy generation that will inspire others to come. That is what I hope to achieve. So to finish off I just want to say that I'm very happy to be working with such an amazing organization who not only cares for the community but also for the wellbeing of everyone. It's truly been a wonderful time working with you guys and hopefully it continues to be.

The Door to Healthy Food By Amina Barechi

The Door to Healthy Food By Amina Barechi

The beginning of another great journey has begun this summer at SummerLunch+. As a TDSB employee I’m so glad I can be apart of this amazing team again this year. Not only do I get the opportunity of educating the children about healthy meals, but I get to be apart of making this incredible change in our summer systems. This program has allowed me to look outside the box and made me aware of a problem that I was not able to notice in my own neighbourhood. Our first year last summer was a success as our small steps made a positive change in the lives of many of these children. Coming back this year made me realize that there’s just so much more to learn and do as a team to help families and kids have access to healthy food. This year the SummerLunch+ team created a community garden to give families a place where they can have access to healthy affordable food. Growing up in Thorncliffe Park, my family and I really never faced any financial issues when it came to buying groceries in local markets, however what I didn’t really pay attention to is that there are families out there that can’t buy healthy food simply because they just can’t afford it. For example, Food Basics is the only local grocery market in our neighbourhood and many of these families have no other option but to shop here. This is where we come in and what we want for these families is to have a place where they can easily commute to and pick out healthy fruits and vegetables we have planted. The garden at 53 Thorncliffe park is one of many we wish to build around neighbourhoods to ensure that financial issues are not the reason behind children and families not being able to continue making healthier choices at home. These positive changes we work on everyday are very small compared to the smiles we get in return for our work. Another year and another summer of feeding young minds has come a long way and is yet to go on!

 

A Whole Summer Of Feeding Young Minds From Maliha and amina

After 6 weeks of summerlunch+, our journey has sadly come to an end for this year. Our first year of feeding children has turned out to be a success. Not only did the program have a positive effect on the kids, but our very own staff began to make healthy choices in their diet. Being able to provide children with the food they may not be eating at home is our priority. Through our journey, we experimented with new recipes and incorporated them with the food children are used to eating at home. Our team has come a long way, and we are so proud of what we have accomplished; educating the children about the meals they're eating, and helping them develop good eating habits. We walked away from this experience knowing that making a change does not always have to be big, it can be done through small steps at a time.

 

The second summerlunch+ Community Lunch from Masooma

The second summerlunch+ Community Lunch from Masooma

"I had heard and seen a few individuals working on or talking about the Summerlunch+ program prior to today, but only this afternoon did I actually witness it. Because it is not something you see or hear, it is something you witness. I'd like to clear up this common misconception that all this program does is provide fresh, nutritious lunches to campers that help them stay healthy and active throughout the day. Because, truly, I can assure you, it is so much more than that. It was the environment provided by these volunteers and staff members that filled me. The laughter that rang through the large room along with the exuberant smiles we were all graced with so often. The quirky rendition of the SpongeBob theme song, and the outrageous call outs of raffle ticket numbers were something that rivaled the delicious food placed on tables all over the room. It was the experience of weaving through tables that seated anyone and everyone, of all ages and walks of life that I'll remember long after this summer is over. And it had dawned upon me suddenly, then and there; breakfast may as well be the most important meal of the day, but camp had made sure that lunch was the undeniably the most fun."  

(Masooma, Thornclilffe Neighbourhood Office, Youth Centre Volunteer)

Community Lunch with summerlunch+

Community Lunch with summerlunch+

On July 14th, we held our first community lunch in the empty Target building in the East York Town Centre. Many campers from Thorncliffe and Valley Park attended with a parent along with their camp counsellors and had a great time.

We spent all week planning and preparing a variety of healthy items to feed the children, their “plus one” and the counsellors. The campers were very excited about what they would be eating for lunch.

We served many nutritious, appetizing items such as whole wheat tortillas stuffed with beets, carrots, cheese, parsnips, and yogurt dressing. We also served vegetable rolls, date balls, hummus with pita, gourmet granola bites, and different fruits and vegetables. It was truly fascinating to see everyone trying and learning new things.

Summerlunch+ is providing reusable water bottles so that kids always have water available to them. We were excited to show kids how they can customize their water to their preference with natural refreshing flavours, such as; mint, lemon, orange, and watermelon. #stayhydrated.

Our team members Lisa and Olivia were of great importance; they worked behind the scenes to make sure food was served at each table and helped in preparing.

We wish to thank the awesome TNO staff and volunteers, who helped the kitchen staff serve foods to the attendees. Thank you Heather, Michelle, and Tara for coming and helping us out. We are grateful for our first donor, Morguard which provided us with the space, helped us serve food, and arranged beautifully designed tables and chairs for free through Cool Set Productions. The President’s Choice Children’s Charity was kind enough to support the food. JK Gourmet gave us granola bars which many had enjoyed. The hummus tasted wonderful, so thank you, chef Anthony Rose.

It was an eventful fun day for all of us, we had an amazing time. We look forward to our next upcoming community lunch!

First Day making 250 lunches for Summerlunch+!

What a bunch of bananas!

What a bunch of bananas!

On our first day, my team and I were very anxious of how things were going to turn out. We worked very hard to make this experience a memorable one. We prepared a week in advance for the first day. We had our tasks well planned, and educational material organized so that the children learn something positive every day.

On Monday, we prepared do-it-yourself whole wheat tortillas with nutritious mixed beans and corn, topped with marble cheese and salsa. Most of the children enjoyed their meals and learned about beans as protein and why we need to have balanced meals. After lunch, our team debriefed and discussed what went right and how we can improve. The first day turned out great and we are excited to continue to provide healthy meals as well as nutritional education to the camp children!

 

First Week Review from Khadija

IMG_0708.jpg

The first week of working with summerlunch+ has been a fairly busy one. My fellow colleagues and I have been working hard to plan for our extensive summerlunch+ program here at Thorncliffe Park Public School. Working with Lisa, Susan, and Olivia has been a great new experience by far and extremely helpful in terms of assistance and advice.

On the very first day we worked on planning and organizing our resources to make this wonderful program come to life. Then on the following day we worked on this very cool project that was a new experience for me, the fermentation of turnips and we also tasted ready-made samples that the instructor, Hema, was kind enough to provide us with. I really enjoyed this workshop and gained a lot of knowledge from it.

On the following afternoon we had a visit from Toronto Public Health’s inspection unit that was very informative regarding food safety. We also participated in fun and descriptive activities regarding healthy foods. We learned that labels don’t always tell the truth and that we should be very careful on what we purchase and consume.

On Thursday the 7th in the afternoon we had our most exciting event that will be a cherished and memorable experience. We made a visit down to Fat Pasha located at Dupont near Spadina. The owner, Chef Anthony Rose, was very accommodating and kind and he taught us how to make his famous hummus. Following the workshop Anthony talked about his highly successful career as a chef and how he started working as a small business and slowly expanded and became one of the most renown chefs in Toronto. My colleagues and I hope to implement his advice while working on the summerlunch+ program serving 250 kids daily and we hope to gradually expand to other schools throughout Canada in the coming years.

According to what my colleagues and I have been working on so far, we see that this amazing program should be offered to the young children and youths in Canada. Our hope at summerlunch+ is that we expand our program to feed future generations and teach them nutritional literacy and the value of eating healthy.  

~ Khadija

Our first week at summerlunch+

This has been a wonderful week of training, learning and meeting some great Torontonians who share our interest in feeding kids year-round. Our summer program is going to bridge the gap when school nutrition programs are on break, in order to reduce summer learning loss, and we can't wait to get started Monday!

 

Olivia, Fajr, Khadija & Susan meet Councillor Joe Mihevc

Olivia, Fajr, Khadija & Susan meet Councillor Joe Mihevc

Getting ready for Coalition for School Food with Sasha from Food Secure Canda
Michelle & Susan are interviewed on Metro Morning!

Michelle & Susan are interviewed on Metro Morning!