A soup kitchen with a difference

Second year DC culinary management student, Shiwei Yin, or 'Oliver' as he is known to his friends, serves Bowmanville food bank volunteer Hugh Allison a bowl of buttercup squash and carrot soup from Bistro '67 at the Empty Bowls event at the Oshawa Golf and Curling Club.

Empty bowls mean empty stomachs, but Feed the Need in Durham (FTND) proved the community is willing to step up to fill the gap when it comes to putting food on the table.

The third annual Empty Bowls fundraiser brought together local restaurants, including Durham College’s Bistro 67, which prepared its signature soups and desserts at the Oshawa Golf and Country Club.

The FTND food hub distributes food to 55 organizations such as emergency food providers including shelters, school breakfast programs, soup kitchens and food banks, as well as, the Campus Food Centre at Durham College and UOIT.

Three-year-old Bennett Fraser from Whitby enjoys his bread roll in between mouthfuls of soup at the Empty Bowls event.

According to Bill Earle, FTND executive director, an average of 100,000 pounds of fresh and frozen food is processed through its Oshawa warehouse each month.  That, according to the FTND website, is the size of a small grocery store.  Empty Bowls is a fundraising initiative where the cost of the $60 admission included unlimited soups served in artisan bowls crafted and donated by the Durham Potters Guild.  The participants were able to take these one-of-a-kind bowls home after the event, held over two sittings.

“Hunger is an unfortunate reality, for far too many individuals and families in our community,” said Earle, “In Durham about 10 per cent of households face food insecurity at some point throughout the year, when they do not have regular access to healthy, nutritious food. Of these, about 40 per cent are households with children living in them.”

Although FTND already works with the Durham College (DC) and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Student Association (SA), to supply the Campus Food Centre, Earle indicated he will be looking at different ways to support the campuses beyond just supplying the food banks.

“Because we shouldn’t be asking people who are trying to build their futures to also be worrying about being hungry every day,” said Earle.

In between the two sittings, Oshawa-born champion jockey Sandy Hawley spoke to the gathering about his career achievements and mishaps.

Another speaker, Kwasi Douglas, season two finalist of Master Chef Canada, hopes to work with FTND.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Douglas.  “A lot of people don’t know how to cook.  I am hoping to work with FTND in a program to teach people where their food comes from and how to eat properly.”

Among the crowd were local dignitaries including  Oshawa mayor John Henry and local MPs.

“It’s an endurance contest, my strategy is to have a small bowl,” said Oshawa MP Colin Carrie as he brought his fourth bowl of soup back to his table. Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chevannes also lined up to get her bowl filled.

The other restaurants participating in the event were Shrimp Cocktail, Bistro 238, Chatterpauls, Port, Tetra, Oshawa Golf and Curling Club, kb, Da Food God, Chartwell Wynfield, Lisa’s Cake and Lollies and The Baker’s Table.

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Barbara Howe is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. She enjoys writing about campus, community, health and social issues for The Chronicle. Her work can also be seen in The Brooklin Town Crier. Barbara is a mother of two teenagers who loves to travel the world. She hopes to make a career as a travel journalist for a major newspaper or magazine.