Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa Food Bank’

Savour the season’s best: feasts, fundraisers and more

Friday, May 30th, 2014
Photo: Vicki (via Flickr) Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

Photo: Vicki (via Flickr)
Creative Commons 2.0 Generic


Savour Ottawa Harvest Table – August 17

One of the culinary highlights of the summer, the Savour Ottawa Harvest Table returns for its fourth consecutive year. You won’t want to miss this multi-course, family-style feast prepared by Ottawa’s finest chefs in partnership with local farmers. It always sells out, so get your tickets now! (All tickets are sold in advance – you can’t buy one at the door). Regular admission includes a ticket to the Harvest Table lunch, and two drink tickets so you can sample some of Ottawa’s best craft breweries and wineries. Locally sourced non-alcoholic beverages will also be provided.

A limited number of Cream of the Crop VIP tickets are available for those who want the full foodie experience including a guided market tour, appetizers and cocktails, plus admission to the luncheon.

When:                 Sunday, August 17

Where:                Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Brewer Park

Cost:                     $75/person ($90/person Cream of the Crop VIP)




Ottawa Foodie Challenge – June 1

Calling all foodies! If you’re up for a fun scavenger hunt, join the Fourth Annual Ottawa Foodie Challenge and help out the Ottawa Food Bank at the same time.

The morning of the event, you’ll receive a list of foodie destinations, along with tasks to perform at each. The more tasks you complete the more points you receive and the better your chances of being crowned Ottawa Foodie Challenge Champion. All proceeds go the Ottawa Food Bank.

When:                  Sunday June 1, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Where:                Starting at Shopify Inc, 126 York St; ending at The Albion Rooms, 33 Nicholas St.

Cost:                     $50 per person – teams of two


Food Aid BBQ and Breakfast with Mayor’s Rural Expo – June 6

This annual event raises funds for the Ottawa Food Bank’s Food Aid program, where all money raised goes to purchasing local ground beef, which is distributed to member agencies to give to people in need.

This year’s Food Aid Day welcomes the Mayor’s Rural Expo for the second year in a row, showcasing the businesses of Ottawa rural communities.

Activities will include a $5 pancake breakfast, a BBQ with hamburgers from The WORKS, live entertainment, and more.

Where:                1) City Hall front lawn; and 2) NHCAP-Skyline Building by Tower 2, corner of Baseline and Merivale

When:                  June 6, 7 a.m. at City Hall; The WORKS BBQ 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at both locations



Permaculture Institute of Eastern Ontario Workshops – May & June

Ecological Design & Gardening: Introduction to Permaculture

May 31- June 1
Perth, ON

Retreat for Permaculture Practitioners

June 21-22
Rockland, ON


Farmer Training Workshop: Post-Harvest Handling for Vegetable Producers – June 23

Find out why post-production activities are key to successful small-scale vegetable farming at this workshop, presented by horticultural scientist and postharvest physiology specialist Dr. Shamel Alam-Eldein. The session will cover the gamut of harvest-to-sale activities, identifying ways to maintain quality and freshness at each step. Topics will include produce maturity, storage conditions such as temperature and humidity, and preventing pests and pathogens. You’ll also get tips on how and when to harvest, as well as advice on containers and packaging, storage conditions, produce transport and presentation for sale.

When:                  Monday June 23, 6-9 p.m.

Where:                Just Food, 2389 Pepin Court, Ottawa
Cost:                     $30, payable at the door (cash or cheque)
Register:   or call 613-699-6850, x15

Volunteer opportunities

Just Food Farm

The Just Food Farm in Blackburn Hamlet is looking for experienced volunteers available weekdays to help with general farm maintenance and property work – particularly over the spring.  This could include lawn mowing and weed trimming, painting, construction and building repair. Get in touch if you have skills to share and are interested in being a part of a growing farm project

Contact:      or 613-699-6850 x15

Torbolton SPIN Farm

Want to try your hand at food gardening? Or turn your backyard veggie plot into a revenue producer? Join the small plot intensive, or SPIN, garden at the Torbolton Institute, just 20 minutes north of Kanata. Benefit from access to SPIN learning resources, such as grower’s guides and marketing aids, and practice food-growing techniques in the SPIN farm’s outdoor classroom. SPIN farming is a market garden system geared to producing high-revenue crops on as little as half an acre.

The Torbolton Institute is an innovations hub whose goal is to make Ottawa locally food secure by 2020.

When:                  Saturdays, 1-4 p.m.

Where:                Torbolton Institute, 3924 Woodkilton Road, Woodlawn

Info:           or contact

Opportunities for farmers, landowners

Partnering organic farmers with Wholefoods

This is a great wholesale opportunity for local organic farmers and processors to work directly with Wholefoods Market, and there’s no deadline.


New funding available

New funding is available to farmers and rural landowners who want to protect water quality. The Rideau Valley Rural Clean Water Program has introduced new project categories to its existing grant program. As a result, eligible landowners can receive funding for up to 90% of project costs and grants of up to $7,500.



 Are there any food events coming up that you’d like to share with Earthward readers? 

2013 yielded bumper crop for Hidden Harvest and Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Community Harvest grows food for Ottawa’s needy.
Photo by Jason Gray

Fresh, nutritious food is often seen as a luxury only the rich can afford.

In 2013, two food security organizations – Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program —  turned that assumption on its head by producing, gathering and donating well over 100,000 pounds of fresh local fruit, vegetables and nuts to those in need.

Edible fruit and nut trees

Hidden Harvest was created less than two years ago to provide Ottawa residents with the knowledge, organizational support and legal means to access edible fruit and nut trees on public and private property. It connects tree owners with volunteer harvesters and with Ottawa Food Bank agencies that can make good use of the food, which includes apples, cherries, elderberries, plums, black walnuts, buttternuts and more. Community agencies, tree owners and volunteers all share in the harvest.

According to the organization’s results for 2013, volunteers harvested about 5,984 lbs of fruit and nuts from 142 trees and the food was likely shared among more than 7,000 people. Of the total harvest, more than 2,000 lbs were donated. This represents a huge increase over the 467 lbs harvested in 2012, of which 152 lbs were donated.

As Hidden Harvest co-founders Jay Garlough and Katrina Siks point out, the bounty of 2013 came from just 142 trees. As more of Ottawa’s 17,000 mapped, food-bearing trees become available for harvesting, how many more people could benefit?

Growing food for Ottawa’s hungry  

This past year, the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program grew, gleaned and gathered donations of 104,710 pounds of fresh local fruit and vegetables for those in need. This yield is an 87% increase over 2012, and well beyond the program’s original goal of $75,000 for this year, says program coordinator Jason Gray.

Community Harvest obtains food by:

  • growing its own organic crops on the Black Family Farm in Stittsville
  • gleaning unpicked produce that would be thrown away otherwise or ploughed back into the soil at the end of the season
  • gathering donations from partner farms, urban gardeners and vendors at the Ottawa Farmers Market.

If the program’s past three seasons are any indication, Jason says, the program will keep on growing. “Every year, we get more positive feedback from the Ottawa Food Bank’s member agencies, and from Community Harvest volunteers, member agencies, and farmers.”

More land, bigger yields, added volunteers

Here are more program highlights from 2013.

  • The amount of land available for Community Harvest’s growing project at Black Family Farm expanded to 4 acres from 2.5, due in part to the success of the project in 2012.
  • Total fresh produce yield rose from 56,130 lbs in 2012 to 104,710 lbs. The yield from the growing project at the Black Farm alone jumped from 15,017 lbs last year to 53,561 lbs this year.
  • The total number of crops (grown and collected) increased from 7 last year to 14 this year. In addition to staples such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, winter squash and zucchini, new crops included cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peppers, herbs, and small plantings of Brussels sprouts, celery and tomatillos.
  • The number of crop varieties also increased (e.g., 7 types of potato). These varieties reached maturity at different times, giving Ottawa Food Bank member agencies a more diverse and even supply of fruits and vegetables.
  • 4 new farms joined the list of produce donors, bringing to 18 the number of partner farms. One of these, Shouldice Berry Farm, donated 2,781 lbs of day-old strawberries.
  • 489 volunteers worked 1,544 hours, up from 285 people who worked 1,219 hours in 2012. Corporate teams and school and community groups also participated. Volunteers help with most aspects of planting and harvesting the crops at Black Family Farm,  such as preparing beds, weeding, installing row covers and netting, setting up irrigation, storing equipment, loading supplies, and washing and boxing harvested produce.

Sign up to volunteer in 2014

Interested in helping either Hidden Harvest Ottawa or Community Harvest in 2014?

For Hidden Harvest, sign up a fruit or nut tree on your property or register as a volunteer harvester.

For Community Harvest, contact Jason to add your name to the volunteer list. As soon as farm work starts in the spring, you’ll start receiving notices about upcoming opportunities.

Read more about Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Community Harvest program here, here and here.

Do we need to do more to get fresh, local produce to people in need? What approaches do you think would work best in your neighbourhood?

Get creative: Help Hidden Harvest Ottawa make aprons for “fruit superheroes”

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Hidden Harvest Ottawa volunteers
Photo: Courtesy of Hidden Harvest Ottawa

If you’re a supporter of local tree fruit, join Hidden Harvest Ottawa this Sunday, July 21 for a free sewing workshop where you’ll help make “fruit superhero” aprons for the volunteer harvesters of Ottawa’s fruit and nut trees. No experience is necessary and you can register online for the event, to be held at Fabrications.

The workshop is one of several activities Hidden Harvest has planned for the summer as part of its long-term goal to make Ottawa a food-tree friendly city.  The group rescues fruit and nuts that would otherwise go to waste by organizing harvests of suitable trees and distributing the produce to community food agencies.

Here’s a closer look at Hidden Harvest Ottawa, what else it has scheduled for the summer, and how you can help.

Tell me more about Hidden Harvest Ottawa.

In operation for just over a year, co-founders Katrina Siks and Jay Garlough created Hidden Harvest to provide Ottawa residents with the knowledge, organizational support and legal means to access edible fruit and nut trees on public and private property. The five-year goal is to make Ottawa the largest urban orchard in Eastern Canada.

The business connects tree owners with volunteer harvesters and Ottawa Food Bank agencies that can make good use of the food, which can range from apples, pears and soft fruits to black walnuts and hazelnuts. Harvests are shared with the community agency, the homeowner and volunteers. Hidden Harvest also uses a portion of the fruit for activities such as juice- and jam-making workshops.  In addition, it sells high quality food-bearing trees suited to Ottawa’s soils and climate, such as paw paw, serviceberry, heartnut and Asian pear.

Hidden Harvest follows in the footsteps of Not Far From the Tree and similar groups across Canada dedicated to supporting urban orchards.

Is it a for-profit business or a charity?

Siks and Garlough say the organization uses a social purpose business (SPB) model. SPBs are for-profit but place equal emphasis on creating measureable social benefits. In the case of Hidden Harvest, the social benefits include boosting Ottawa’s food security, making the city food-tree friendly, and addressing climate change by strengthening the local food economy. Plans are for Hidden Harvest to be financially self-sufficient in three years through strategies such as the tree sales.

How can I help?

Besides the fruit superhero apron workshop, what other events does Hidden Harvest Ottawa have lined up for the summer?

The key activities will be the harvests themselves, along with volunteer training workshops. Siks estimates that about 40 harvests will take place this year, up from 10 in 2012. Once a harvest event is arranged for a certain neighbourhood, volunteers who’ve signed up to pick fruit in that area receive an email with the date, time and locations.

At this point, two volunteer training sessions are on tap for August:

  1. Introduction to being a Hidden Harvest Volunteer

When:                  August 12, 6-7 p.m.

Where:                 HUB Ottawa,  F6, 71 Bank Street

Register online.

  1. Introduction to being a Hidden Harvest Neighbourhood Leader

When:                  August 13

Where:                 Also at HUB Ottawa

Other activities are also being considered for the coming months, such as a fundraising jam-making event and a permaculture yard tour.

What fruit and nut trees do you have in your neighbourhood? Is the food harvested or does it go to waste?

Volunteer with Ottawa’s Community Harvest program this season

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Community Harvest volunteers
Photo: Courtesy of Ottawa Food Bank

A few months ago, I wrote about the inspiring work of Community Harvest,  a program that provides fresh local produce to about 48,000 people who use Ottawa Food Bank services every month. In 2012, the program supplied 56,130 lbs of fresh fruit and vegetables to the food bank’s 140 member agencies, and the goal for 2013 is 75,000 lbs.

To supply the food, Community Harvest grows a variety of organic crops at Tom Black farm in Stittsville. It also gleans unpicked produce that would get thrown out otherwise or plowed under at the end of the season. Finally, it solicits donations of fruit and vegetables from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market and partner farms.

Program relies on volunteers

To get all this work done, Community Harvest depends heavily on volunteers.  Last year, 285 individual volunteers and 10 corporate groups spent more than 1,200 hours planting, weeding and harvesting, says Jason Gray, the program’s coordinator at the Ottawa Food Bank.

Beginning the week of June 3, there will be a push for more volunteers, he adds. There’s lots of weeding to do in the already-planted rows of cabbages, broccoli, carrots and beets, as well as many more vegetables to plant, including peppers, okra, eggplant, squash and cantaloupe.

Why it’s rewarding

There are many good reasons to help out.

For starters, you get to work outdoors in peaceful farm fields. For another, all that bending and stretching is a great workout. You also have the chance to meet other volunteers and socialize a bit as you work alongside them.

Above all, you have the sense of well-being that comes from knowing that you’re helping to raise healthy food for people in the community (many of them children) who are in need.

What to expect

Typically, you’ll work a two-hour shift – weeding, planting or harvesting with other volunteers, with Jason Gray’s guidance. If you’re new to the work, allow yourself time to find your own rhythm.  I discovered this for myself when I did a stint planting potatoes earlier this week.

I fumbled at first, planting the potato pieces too close together, then too far apart, before getting the hang of it. But by the end of the morning, two more experienced volunteers and I had somehow managed to plant 3,400 pieces of four different varieties of potato.

What to bring

Always dress for the weather. Work will be cancelled if there’s heavy rain, but be ready to persevere through showers and summer heat. Choose clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and wear boots or shoes with closed toes. Pack water, snacks, sun screen and a hat.

 How to sign up

Just contact Jason and ask him to add your name to his volunteer listserv. Then, each time Community Harvest needs volunteers, you’ll receive an email with dates and times for upcoming shifts and directions to Tom Black Farm.

Have you volunteered on a farm before? What was your experience?

Field of potatoes at Tom Black Farm
Photo: Valerie Ward


Community Harvest grows fresh local produce for Ottawa’s hungry

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

What comes to mind when you think of food bank food? Canned goods, probably. Processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

The Ottawa Food Bank and Community Harvest Ontario are challenging that stereotype. Together, they’re transforming emergency food relief in this city by making fresh, local fruit and vegetables available to those in need.  In 2012 — its third year of operation –Community Harvest grew and sourced 56,130 lbs of fresh produce for the Ottawa Food Bank to distribute to its 140 member agencies.  The goal for 2013 is even higher, at 75,000 lbs.

The Community Harvest program gives the estimated 48,000 people (37% of them children) who use Ottawa Food Bank services each month the chance to eat more nutritiously.  At the same time, it helps strengthen community by building relationships with local farmers, recruiting local volunteers and soliciting in-kind support from local businesses.

“The whole program is very rewarding,” says Jason Gray, Community Harvest coordinator for the Ottawa Food Bank. “The community benefit gives you a real sense of wellbeing.”

Ontario Association of Food Banks

An initiative of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, Community Harvest Ontario got started in 2009 in response to the global recession, declines in Ontario’s food manufacturing sector, and rising demand for food bank services.  Successful pilot projects in the Toronto area led to expanded programs in partnership with regional food banks in Ottawa, Hamilton, London and Thunder Bay the following year.

The push to provide nutritious fresh food is consistent with other Ottawa Food Bank practices, Jason points out. “Many people aren’t aware, but we distribute a lot of fresh food, and for after-school programs it’s all fresh.  Through our annual Food Aid event, we raise money to purchase beef from a local sale barn that we can process locally, freeze, and supply to our member agencies.”

Grow, glean, give

To provide fresh local fruit and vegetables, Community Harvest uses three main strategies:

  1. It grows its own crops at local farms, using organic methods.
  2. It gleans unpicked produce that would otherwise be disposed of or ploughed back into the soil at the end of the season, and
  3. It promotes giving – that is, donations of produce from partner farms and farmers’ markets (in Ottawa’s case, from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market).

These strategies are clearly working. For example, last year’s growing projects at Black Farm in Stittsville and Roots and Shoots Farm near Manotick Station yielded a total of 15,017 lbs of vegetables, up 83% from 2011. Gleaning from partner farms yielded nearly 17,000 lbs, while produce donations added more than 24,000 lbs. As the program grows, so does the variety of produce; in 2012, it included potatoes, carrots, corn, squash, beets and apples, as well as small crops of broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, Swiss chard and other vegetables.

To meet its 2013 goal of 75,000 lbs of fresh produce, Community Harvest plans to consolidate its growing projects and search for a new one closer to Ottawa Food Bank’s warehouse in Gloucester. There are also opportunities to add new crops, depending on the needs of member agencies.

 Volunteers at the heart of Community Harvest

None of these successes would have been possible without the hard work of volunteers, Jason Gray notes. “They’re at the heart of what we do.” In 2012, 285 individual volunteers and 10 corporate groups spent 1,219 hours planting, weeding and harvesting.

Jason says he’s always interested in signing up new volunteers, and wants to engage more corporate groups this year. He’s also looking for donations of equipment to streamline the farm work and money to expand the program. Contact him if you’d like to help.

 What other ways can Ottawa make fresh local food available to those in need?



5 gifts that support local food

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Still have holiday shopping to cram into the next few days? Whether you’re buying for the locavore on your list or simply want to show your support for Ottawa’s local food economy, here are five sure-fire gift ideas.

  1. Food and drink from Ottawa artisans

Many Ottawa food artisans handcraft unique, tasty products using local ingredients.  I list several here, but you can find lots more by checking out websites such as Savour Ottawa, the Ottawa Farmers Market, the Ottawa Specialty Food Association, and the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF).

Carolina’s Box of Goodness: artisan brownies, custom cakes

Gourmet Sauvage: jellies, syrups, marinades, condiments

Heavenly Honey: gourmet honey, beeswax candles

Hummingbird Chocolate: small-batch artisanal chocolate from ethically sourced cocoa

Kawalsa Salsa: spicy, low-sodium salsas

Major Craig’s: aromatic chutneys

Pêches & Poivre: desserts, handcrafted cheeses

Tea & Ginseng: 120 types of tea

ThimbleCakes: organic, nut- and egg-free custom cakes and cupcakes

2.    Home-cooked meals

Know someone who doesn’t have time to cook or who needs a break from cooking? Here are two meal service businesses that source ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible:

The Red Apron (read the Earthward profile):  Menus feature sophisticated, seasonal comfort food. Dinners can be ordered by the day or the week, for pick-up or home delivery.

Scratch Kitchen: A local Ottawa family-owned and operated business, Scratch Kitchen prepares gourmet frozen meals for home delivery.

  1. Restaurant dining and catering services

Visit Savour Ottawa for a list of restaurants and caterers who use seasonal local ingredients. Many of them sell gift certificates, including Absinthe, Beckta Dining & Wine, John Taylor at Domus Café, Eighteen, The Urban Pear, Thyme & Again Catering and Take-Home Foods and Zen Kitchen.

  1. Hands-on cooking classes

Knowing some cooking basics is key to healthier, more seasonal eating. And besides that, cooking can be fun. A gift certificate for a workshop at either of these learning kitchens would please an experienced cook as well as a beginner.

Credible Edibles: Provides eco-catering and hands-on, plant-based cooking workshops. Discounts on classes are available for kids, students and seniors.

The Urban Element: This cooking and culinary event studio supports local chefs, producers, farmers and restaurants.

  1. Make a donation

Everyone should have enough to eat, yet many adults and children in this city do not. For example, each month, 45,000  people – about 37% of whom are children — turn to the Ottawa Food Bank.  Instead of buying more stuff for a friend or family member, make a donation in their name to one of the many organizations out there that feed people in need. Here are two possibilities:

Ottawa Food Bank: Did you know that, in addition to food donations from individuals, supermarkets and restaurants, the OFB grows and gathers an impressive amount of fresh, local food? Its Community Harvest program grows vegetables, gleans produce from farmers’ fields that would otherwise go to waste, and collects donations of fresh food from local farmers and Ottawa farmers’ markets. In 2012, food from Community Harvest’s combined sources totalled more than 56,000 lbs.

Hidden Harvest Ottawa: This organization plants food-bearing trees in backyards and community spaces, and picks and shares fruit and nuts that would otherwise be wasted. Buy a tree for a friend, family member or community group.

What local food gifts are you buying this year?

Have a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for 2013! Earthward will be back in early January.