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Volunteers at the hub of providing good food for County residents

Chefs and volunteers are putting cooking skills to good use by ensuring people in Prince Edward County have access to nutritional food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chef Albert Ponzo, who teaches in Loyalist College’s Culinary Skills and Culinary Management programs, has teamed up with the County’s Food Collective volunteers and Food to Share, a Prince Edward County-based organization that collects locally grown produce.

It is estimated that more than 10 per cent of households in Ontario struggle with securing food. The COVID-19 pandemic has created even more financial strain and insecurity for many residents.

Ponzo learned about Food to Share through the County Food Hub, a project that established a commercial kitchen within Sophiasburgh Central School.

“The community wanted to save their school from closure – that’s how the County Food Hub was born,” said Ponzo, who sits on the Hub’s board of governors. “It’s a fully-equipped kitchen that can be rented and used by chefs and caterers. It provides a revenue stream that allows the school to remain open.”

Food to Share works out of the Hub’s kitchen, where Ponzo experienced first-hand how the organization was fighting food insecurity locally.

“I knew that they were addressing a really important need,” said Ponzo. “When the pandemic started, many of their volunteers had to stop participating because they are older and more vulnerable. I knew one thing I had access to was a pool of willing helpers, so I decided to get more involved. It wasn’t hard to find volunteers from Loyalist College.”

Two of those volunteers are Loyalist Culinary Management students Courtney Gaudet and Noah Rudderham.

“It sounded like a fun opportunity, and a great way to help others,” said Gaudet.

“When I received an email asking for volunteers, I didn’t hesitate,” said Rudderham. “I knew I wanted to get out there and get involved.”

Ponzo and his students are working with local Chef David Evans to make sure that the meals they prepare are packed with nutrition.

“Food to Share tries to provide people with food that is wholesome, healthy and balanced,” said Ponzo. “Last week, the team made pork casserole. This week we’re preparing Bolognese.”

Under normal circumstances, kitchens are active environments where chefs and cooks work closely. That’s not the case for Chef Ponzo and team.

“We each work at our own station, practicing physical distancing while we cook,” said Rudderham. “Even though we’re six feet apart, we still get to talk and work together. It’s very different from what you’d normally experience in a kitchen. I’m just happy that we’re able to contribute in this way. Food brings people together and by providing hearty meals to those who need it most, we’re contributing to the health and wellness of our community.”

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesWhat's To Eat?

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  1. Barbara Foster says:

    Thanks you for sharing. Thank you and your crew from Loyalist College. This is the perfect role for The Hub. No on knew at the time when we were struggling to keep our school open that such a necessary need was imminent.

    A very grateful Sophiasburgh resident.

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