By Krista Murray with notes from Marvi Khatwani

Tom Gancarz (left), Mayor Susan Fennell (middle) and Sharon Mayne-Devine, Executive Director of Catholic Family Services (right), share their dreams for the community kitchen at the Grand Opening.
Tom Gancarz (left), Mayor Susan Fennell (middle) and Sharon Mayne-Devine, Executive Director of Catholic Family Services (right), share their dreams for the community kitchen at the Grand Opening.

Great discussion happens while breaking bread around a family dinner table. Food is often the common denominator around which we bond, nourish and re-energize. This is the experience Tom Gancarz, Community Kitchen Supervisor at Good Food Brampton (GFB), creates around the tables at one of Peel’s newest Community Kitchens. GFB strives to grow access to quality, nutritious, affordable food for our community, while giving youth a taste of a career in culinary arts.

A few years ago, Tom Gancarz was working in the corporate sector at a hotel chain before making the transition to the non-profit world. “The big difference is that at the end of the day, you can impact somebody’s life with what you do,” says Tom.

Tom is witnessing what PCYI’s Voices: A Study of Youth in Peel research tells us: 60% of young people in Peel want to learn how to cook. They would like to do this activity in their spare time above anything else. Programs like Good Food Brampton are popping up around Peel Region, bringing the research to action, and aligning with youth’s interests.

Good Food Brampton, located at The Hon. William G. Davis Centre for Families in Brampton, aims to educate the community about buying, storing and preparing foods, while preventing waste, and having some fun.

1.       Good Food Brampton Youth Program

In partnership with Rapport Youth & Family Services, at risk youth ages 12-24 cook together for six weeks and learn how to select and prepare healthy, nutritious foods. They learn basic life skills, such as punctuality, food safety and sanitization. At the same time, they gain knowledge of kitchen equipment and core skills they can use to cook at home. They eat a meal together at the session and take a meal home. Gathering around the “kitchen table” in the community kitchen offers a sense of family.

2.       Supper Connections

A group of dedicated volunteers: (from left) Elaine, Marta, Lindsey, Glen Abbey’s Executive Chef Jamie Hussey & Maxine.
A group of dedicated volunteers: (from left) Elaine, Marta, Lindsey, Glen Abbey’s Executive Chef Jamie Hussey & Maxine.

In partnership with Vita Centre, Supper Connection brings young moms, ages 15-30, with young children together to share meals and talk about parenting. A trained facilitator helps the moms improve their food choices while reinforcing positive parenting strategies and building confidence. Child minding is available so that moms can enjoy their meal.

3.       Eat, Love, Share

Eat Love Share is a drop in program for women who have experienced trauma. They are invited to gather and heal through food. Though they come from many backgrounds, they bond through a common experience.

Good Food Brampton has been in operation since September 2013 and as a new organization they are doing exceptionally well. They are always looking for new partnerships, and aim to expand to 9 programs in 2014 so that more youth can gain hands on experience in the culinary field and food preparation.

Good Food Brampton has also taken on a new responsibility of bringing Food Revolution to Brampton. Food Revolution is a movement founded by famous British chef, Jamie Oliver, with the hopes of supporting a national effort in fighting against obesity. This is an ongoing movement, and Good Food Brampton has decided to host events for this movement in their kitchen. The big Food Revolution Day event will be taking place on May 16th. Until then, they will host monthly challenges which can be accessed on Twitter @FoodRevBrampton.

United Way’s 2013 Spirit Awards, Shelley White (CEO & President, United Way Peel), displays hors d’oeuvres created by youth from Good Food Brampton Youth Program.
United Way’s 2013 Spirit Awards, Shelley White (CEO & President, United Way Peel), displays hors d’oeuvres created by youth from Good Food Brampton Youth Program.

Whether they strive to be a chef in their kitchen at home, or on the world’s stage, Good Food Brampton is helping young people to do what they want to be doing in their spare time. This premise is rooted in the research, and further measured through pre and post surveys at GFB. Their results shows that participants have a better understanding of cooking healthy meals, food security and more confidence in the kitchen.

Tom can see these changes with his own eyes.

“The impact is on the spot,” he says. “This is my motivating factor and my inspiration.”

The last tasty detail? No food goes to waste at GFB – leftover food is used to create meals for the local soup kitchen, and also to the clients at the William G. Davis Center for Families.

To participate in a GFB program, donate, or partner with GFB, learn more www.goodfoodbrampton.com and on Twitter @gfbrampton. Tom can be reached at tgancarz@cfspd.com.  

A community approach to Good Food