Parkdale Food Centre: Empowering Future Generations through Food

Nestled in an Ottawan community center, Parkdale Food Centre is innovating the way food banks develop programming. Instead of food distributions, young participants have multiple ways to address food insecurity and financial instability by building a sturdy foundation in financial literacy and entrepreneurship through the food industry.

Grain-ular Gains

Thirteen, A Social Enterprise, empowers teens in the community to become entrepreneurs by gaining experience selling varieties of homemade muesli and customized spice mixes. During this year-long program, 13 teens gain valuable experience in sales, marketing and product development with the aid of their mentors and local volunteers.

Each participant arrives to the team with a story and a goal. This multi-cultural team has participants from five countries, which has led to products with influences from a variety of food cultures. For instance, one can purchase spices from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya from their online store. Second-year students who continue with the program become mentors to the first-year students. For these young folks, the program isn’t just about gaining experience. Additionally, all of the profits are divided among the participants and used for educational scholarships or seed money for their own businesses. Program manager, Karen Secord said that empowering others comes from gaining new skills for the work world, not just learning a traditional skill.


Growing Community

The saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ couldn’t be more true concerning Parkdale’s Growing Futures program. In this innovative initiative, school children work together with local businesses and community members to develop financial literacy by having their own food company. Students grow greens and herbs in hydroponic towers and walls in their classroom, which are then sold to local cafes, restaurants, and community members. In this model, students are positively impacting their local food economy, learning how to grow food and run a social enterprise, meeting community mentors, and becoming involved citizens in their city. Overall, students feel connected to their community through food.


Looking Forward

These unique programs have received much local attention. Most recently, the renowned culinary group Le Club des Chefs des Chefs stopped by the Parkdale Food Centre to assist the students. Le Club des Chefs des Chefs is composed of the world’s leaders’ chefs and culinary professionals. Several chefs joined the school children on the Ottawa greenway to sell green smoothies. The chefs and students alike produced the drinks for walkers and runners by powering a blender while pedaling on a stationary bike. At the same time, another group of chefs helped students at 13 A Social Enterprise with bagging and

labeling their muesli. That day, over ten nationalities were gathered at this community center to invest in the financial future and to ensure a positive legacy for the next generation through food.

Currently, 13 A Social Enterprise is raising money to showcase their products at the Toronto Film Festival. To learn more about their mission and how to support them (and watch their official music video) please visit their page:



About the Author 

Kelsey Maher is an culinary educator and marketer with a passion for globetrotting. When she is not collecting new recipes, Kelsey spends her time as a member of NooshTube’s marketing team.  She is well-versed in the attributes of olive oil, forages for fungi, and enjoys visiting local farms in her native California.