Rockwood chef donates heat-and-eat meals back to EWCS food banks

ROCKWOOD – Chompin at the Bit is helping East Wellington Community Services’ (EWCS) food banks offer support to individuals in the community by creating heat-and-eat meals from food bank supplies.

Lisa Canham, assistant chef at Chompin at the Bit, has volunteered her time to prepare frozen meals for the EWCS food banks in Rockwood and Erin, using a combination of donated food bank items and food she’s sourced from donors around the community.

“I thought I’d like to practice making large batched meals and I had a lot of spare time on my hands so I just called the food bank and asked them if they’d be interested in some prepared meals for people because I know a lot of people that go there might live in a room where they just have a microwave,” Canham said.

In January, Canham reached out to EWCS to express her interest in collaborating with the EWCS food bank. When the initiative began, the food bank purchased 500 containers to fill.

To date, Canham has made nearly 400 meals.

Gary Hayes, community support worker who oversees the EWCS food bank in Rockwood, said they have been getting a lot of positive feedback from their clients about the initiative.

“I was trying to figure out myself how I could do something like this and then learning about the process of having a certified kitchen and making sure we’re good to go and it was just awesome when I heard Lisa was looking to do this, and not just Lisa but the whole team,” he explained.

Canham portions the meals out, packages them and then freezes the meals to be picked up by Hayes. Usually once a week, Hayes will stop by the restaurant and she’ll give him roughly 30 meals.

“I have the capability to make more, I’m just waiting for a little bit more produce to become available,” Canham explained. “When things are growing here, I’ll be able to make a lot more things.”

Canham noted that one of the challenges for her is to get donated items that are perishable. Items like carrots, celery and fresh onions are harder for her to come by right now.

However, she said hoping that in another month or so she will be able to get more items donated from the farmers market once it opens.

Canham said as long as she’s living in Rockwood and working in the restaurant she will continue to provide meals.

“We’ll see what happens. I’m planning on continuing on the way I am, but it would be nice if you could give people things that are fresh,” she explained. “That’s another experimental process I’ve been going through.”

“I know quite a few people that rely on the food bank and the meals that I make,” she said. “It gives me quite a bit of satisfaction that I make them something that they like but is actually good for them too.”

“In some cases, there might be mobility issues, there might be a range of factors where people don’t always have the time or the ability to make nutritious meals,” Hayes explained. “So, they’re adding convenience and additional nutrition which is great.”

A combination of delivery and pick up available. EWCS provides a transport service that will drop off orders. For clients that prefer to come by and pick up their orders, the food bank offers a monthly visit.