It Takes a Village! Group Raises Awareness on Hunger

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Launched in 2015, Kind Village is a network of like-minded local businesses, professionals and organizations working together to build stronger and more sustainable communities. Yesterday, the group, along with the chefs of Les Touques Blanches Ottawa, turned their focus on cooking up a heavy helping of awareness and support for hunger and food security issues here and country-wide.

Taking place at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Feed the City, Feed Your Soul introduced ways the community can take a bite out of hunger while providing a forum for ideas and learning to create healthy, affordable meals.

Some of Canada's top chefs were on hand to show that the culinary arts don't have to be complex nor do you need a lavish kitchen. Meals were made at a low coast and with limited ingredients and equipment. Chef Sandra MacInnis offered those attending a chance to lend a hand in creating a meal for all and others took to stages set up around the grounds for the Milk Crate Pitch'er Competition where they voiced ways to reduce hunger and improve access to healthier foods.

Ric Watson (The Ottawa Mission), Fredeic Filliodeau (University of Ottawa), Joe Thottungal (Coconut Lagoon), Ritesh Purran (Canadian Culinary Federation) and Claude Leblond (Highliner Culinary) are just some of the names on hand to slice, dice, and serve for the cause. 

Ottawa Life had a chance to talk with Tanya Woods, Chief Impact Officer for Kind Village, about the event and what you can do to help.

Ottawa Life: Can you give me a bit of background on Kind Village and how it came to be?

Tanya Woods: As a professional sitting on charity boards and donating my time and services to various causes, I realized a number of challenges that charities and non-profits face, but also some of the challenges professionals and business owners face when they want to get involved in the community to make a difference. One of the biggest barriers I found was a lack of awareness for charities of how to get the word out about their organization and what help they need, and a lack of awareness for professionals and business owners of how they can find ways to make a difference in their communities. With that in mind, Kind Village began to grow into what it is today: an online community connecting like-minded individuals, companies and charities who want to build stronger, kinder and more sustainable communities. We have been able to grow our team of community champions who work directly with us and alongside us in Ottawa and local communities across Canada, the United States and now into Europe.

What are some of the main goals of Kind Village?

Kind Village helps businesses and professionals connect in a meaningful way with their community to make a bigger impact on community challenges. This includes raising awareness for persistent issues like hunger.

We are not fundraisers. We think outside of the box to create accessible, inclusive, impactful and fun experiences for everyone engaged on an issue. But mostly we are using technology to help solve big challenges facing humanity. We work with community partners – businesses, professionals, charities, non-profits and government agencies – and we pull together our ideas and resources to incubate and execute new initiatives that can move the conversation forward while addressing some of our biggest challenges.

Giving back and donating our time and talents is also really important to our team, which is why we do BIG Impact Initiatives like Feed the City, Feed Your Soul. We believe that we have all the resources on this planet to actually tackle and make a meaning impact on some of humanity’s biggest challenges. Our big goal is to find ways to allocate those resources to create a measurable improvement.

Outside of Feed the City, what are some of the initiatives Kind Village takes to raise awareness throughout the year?

This fall, Kind Village is launching a new online platform that makes giving easier. Charities, non-profits, businesses and individuals will have the opportunity to champion their causes under eight categories of impact: hunger; poverty; equality with dignity; education; peace, justice and human rights; environment and animals; health; and creativity and innovation. As well, each year, we put together a big impact initiative to support two of these categories. This year, it’s hunger and creativity and innovation. Feed the City, Feed Your Soul is our hunger initiative. On November 17, we will be launching our innovation and creativity initiative at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, which is a collaboration with local digital artisan Eric Chan, aka eepmon. The installation will tell Canada’s social innovation story and will be accompanied by an online activity that will engage Canadians and museum guests in thinking about how they can contribute to making a difference in their local communities.

How did the idea for Feed the City evolve?

When we began to build Kind Village, our team went out into our community to talk to people and learn about the challenges they were facing every day. Hunger and food insecurity kept coming up regardless of the charity, regardless of the community. Thinking about ways that we at Kind Village could do something different to raise awareness, we pitched a crazy idea to Laura VanderBaaren at Russell Hendrix Foodservice Equipment to employ the talents of the chefs in our community and in-kind support. We met with Les Toques Blanches Ottawa and agreed to move ahead. After 12 months of preparation and support from our partners and in-kind sponsors, Feed the City, Feed Your Soul is what has resulted!

What are some of the main points you are looking to get across with this event?

  • Hunger exists in a significant way in communities across Canada. Thirteen per cent of Canadians face hunger and food insecurity every day.
  • We can all do something to make a difference, whether it’s teaching people what to buy on a budget and how to prepare it, encouraging and enabling new ways to reduce to occurrence of hunger through projects like community gardens and mobile markets that sell affordable healthy food, or hosting a community meal where everyone brings what they can.
  • There is no shame in being hungry. We all have a responsibility to look after our fellow community members.
  • Food banks welcome healthy, nutritious foods and they don’t need to be in cans.
  • You can do an awful lot with a little when partners works together.

This is an big impact initiative that will carry on for more than a day and bring together groups who want to make a measurable difference. We hope this event will raise the volume on hunger and spark action and conversation on the issues, and more importantly, catalyze some bigger efforts to reduce the stigma and occurrence of the problems that lead to and perpetuate hunger and food insecurity in Canada. It’s not a fundraiser or an opportunity to make money. It is an entirely volunteer-driven initiative with in-kind support.

Can you tell me a bit more about the Milk Crate Pitch’er Competition?

The Milk Crate Pitch’er Competition is our version of giving people the opportunity to get up on a soap box — in this case, a milk crate — to talk about an idea or solution they have related to solving the problem of hunger in Canada. We have invited individuals and organizations across the city to speak about how they are making a difference. We also partnered with pHacktory and Andrew Pelling’s team to encourage people to bring bold and audacious ideas to the forefront. We have invited everyone – parents, teachers, kids, students, politicians, grandparents, you name it – to bring their ideas because we believe that everyone has something they can contribute, everyone’s perspective is valued. The winner of the pitch competition will be invited to go through the pHacktory lab to scale their big idea across Canada and JustChange will reward them with a small grant to offset costs to help make their project a success.

How are some of the ways you feel the community can help reduce hunger and food insecurities here?

There are so many ways that people can begin to make a difference, probably too many to list here. As a start, they can bring any of the eight ingredients represented at Feed the City, Feed Your Soul – oats, dried beans, spices, rice, root vegetables, fish, meat, butter, oil, apples – to local food cupboards and community kitchens because these foods don’t require refrigeration, they are healthy and they go a long way. People can get in touch with their local food bank and food kitchen, see what support is needed and get involved in a project. And, of course, they can host a Stone Soup meal or community potluck.

Finally, what advice might you give for somebody looking to host a Stone Soup Meal?

Stone Soup is all about being resourceful and using what you have. This means that people can make the soup with whatever ingredients they like and season it to taste. It’s as much about building a meal together as it is sharing it and growing your community, which is very important when people feel embarrassed about being hungry. If you don’t know what Stone Soup is, there’s a great video on our website that we will be keeping up over the next 12 months as we grow our initiative across the country.