At Stella’s Place, we have always aimed to provide young adults with programming that would give them the tools to improve their lives, and, at the centre of it, having a strong food program was a much-needed key ingredient. Stella’s partnership with Second Harvest began in May 2017, when Dagmar Schroeder, the Development Officer, reached out to Senior Manager, Kiera Toffelmire of Second Harvest and established a strong connection with the organization. She brought together a team of dedicated individuals, and I was brought on to coordinate the food effort, including establishing communication with the Coordinators at Second Harvest, packing away the weekly donations and maintaining our partnership. As a result, our existing snack program was thankfully bolstered by Second Harvest’s weekly donations, helping us create an atmosphere that was supportive, caring and warm.
Every Friday morning, we receive shipments from Second Harvest, and with the combined efforts of staff members, we accept 100 pounds of donated food that we then process in the kitchen. Over the past year, we have forged a good bond with the drivers from Second Harvest, who are always friendly and supportive partners in our food program.
As the Program Food Coordinator at Stella’s Place, I oversee the proper storage of the shipments, ensuring that everything is safely unpacked and that our fridge for programs is happily filled with healthy, nutritious food. Ever a busy place, we have many programs going on at Stella’s, including day, drop-in and evening programs, as well as health and fitness classes, so making sure that we have enough snacks for all of our participants is a priority. To enhance accessibility, I also created a designated space in a part of the café where people can just pick up non-perishable items as they need them. This helps those who are in need feel safe and accepted in our space.
Earlier this year, Stella’s Place was featured in Second Harvest’s annual agency cookbook. Our submission of a recipe for a vegan pizza was accompanied by photos of our participants and staff. Our volunteer chef Joe Farrell also helped re-create the atmosphere of a drop-in community kitchen, which was thoughtfully captured by photographer Bill Leontaritis for the cookbook. His dynamic and free-flowing style really captured who we are and how we work together as a team at Stella’s, with lots of shared laughter and touching stories of lived experience. It was as though we were all back at a friend’s place, just having fun and getting messy.
My experience with Second Harvest this year has shown how important and vital a strong food program is to Stella’s Place. It has been a great start to a fantastic partnership, and we certainly have room for growth to accommodate the increasing diversity and numbers in Stella’s participants. To this end, going forward, I aim to expand and diversify the food program to better serve participants from all walks of life.