Co-Op Cred Spotlight : Glenmore

I enter the PARC kitchen and it’s a cacophony of smells and sounds. There’s an array of dishes in progress, from boiled potatoes to seasoned meat, the kitchen is almost ready to serve lunch! When I got there breakfast was almost done and for good reason, berry oat crumble, fresh fruit and fruit infused bottled drinks were on the menu.

Tessa White, the head chef, is scooping out rice while Glenmore, a Co-op Cred participant peels boiled eggs. Glenmore later moves on to deftly chopping potatoes and is quite skilled. I was surprised to learn that Glenmore was a novice to cooking when he started in the program 3 years ago. Previously, he was in Greenest City garden for 4 years before being moving to the PARC kitchen.

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Glenmore’s favourite part of the program is eating and his favourite food is potatoes! He loves potatoes in almost any form: as potato salad, roasted, mashed, and with carrots and veggies too. One thing he enjoys about his placement at the PARC kitchen is that he can replicate the recipes at home using the skills he learned and in under 20 minutes. He also learns new ways of eating old favourites, such as macaroni with meat sauce. Some recipes made in the kitchen can take more than a day, like the oxtail that had to be softened in a kitchen warmer overnight while others are relatively quick without sacrificing taste. Glenmore is one of 10 Co-op Cred participants working in the PARC kitchen.

The PARC kitchen has been involved with the Co-op Cred program for 7 years but finding help in the kitchen hasn’t always been easy. While speaking with Tessa I learned that it was quite difficult to get volunteers to help out in the kitchen, and the Co-op Cred program was a wonderful way to get people involved.

As for Tessa, this is not the first time she has been a supervisor for a program like this, she previously worked at Boys and Girls Club Second Harvest kitchen where she oversaw volunteers and staff in the kitchen. She enjoys teaching others basic cooking skills in the Co-op Cred program. When it comes to recipes Tessa adds her own twist and told us that when she looks at recipes in cook books she uses them as a guide and cooks intuitively from there. So when she’s teaching recipes in the PARC kitchen she teaches people the basics so that they can put their own spin on recipes they learn, something Glenmore is familiar with!

If you’re interested in becoming a Kitchen Volunteer please fill out our Volunteer Application Form and we will follow up shortly!

Co- Op Cred Spotlight: Sonam

It’s a sunny day in Parkdale and the buildings surrounding the Dunn Parkette Learning Garden provide some shade. The garden is run by Greenest City, a key partner in the Co-op Cred Program where they host up to 10 participants in the gardening program. At the the garden 4 co-op cred participants, a placement student and 2 summer students are tending to the garden. Some are harvesting plants while others plant seedlings and perform some garden maintenance. There’s a variety of vegetation planted in plots, raised beds and even growing along the fence.

We meet a friendly woman decked out in a pink floral top and matching visor named Sonam. She’s a seasoned gardener with a wealth of knowledge for anyone willing to learn and today she shared her story with us.

She tells us that her life story is quite long so she gives us the short version. Sonam was born in India’s mountainous north and lived there until she moved south when she got married. It was there that she learned how to farm by tending to corn on her husband’s large farm. She has her fair share of stories from those days and tells us that she used to deal with elephants trampling through her plots!

Sonam first heard about the Co-op Cred Greenest City placement in an ESL class she was attending. At the time, she was working at the West End Food Co-op and Sorauren Market. She saw this garden as an opportunity to volunteer and share her skills, a change from her current work. Her experience farming back home made this placement a perfect fit for her.

While we were there, Sonam educated us about the various plants in the garden she’s tending to and a bit about them. We also learn about the Three Sisters: beans, corn, and squash which are based on an Iroquois legend. The legend states that these three plants are inseparable sisters who only grow together, which serves as the basis for the tradition of planting the three together.

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In this placement Sonam enjoys the fact that she can plant produce, teach people how to garden, and share the harvest with her fellow participants. In fact, Michaela, a summer student, highlights that the difference between the Dunn Parkette Learning Garden and other Greenest City programs is that this garden offers participants the opportunity to share and learn together.

By doing so, they can build a sense of community while also connecting with the environment. Since participants range from seasoned gardeners to novices, those who are experienced then have the chance to teach others. The program also provides participants with the opportunity to grow their own food while also learning how to identify plants in the environment.

We also asked Adrian DiLena, a Community Cooking Coordinator at Greenest City, what his favourite part about the program is:

One thing that I’ve discovered is that once we’ve collectively established a work plan for a session, listed out the tasks that should be worked on for the day - there is a lot of ‘free’ time to converse amongst ourselves while going about the task at hand. This is something I’ve always loved about cooking with people and I think it holds true for gardening as well - its gives people an opportunity to get to know one another; to ask questions; to not be distracted by the regular day to day stresses. In the garden, we might be meticulously weeding a bed of tomato plants, but we also use that time to talk and build relationships.
— Adrian DiLena

About Greenest City - Adrian DiLena

Greenest City began in 1996 as an environmental organization. Over that 20+ year history, the organization has adapted and been informed by the changing nature of environmentalism. Greenest City sees programming that operates at the intersection of food security, social & environmental justice and community capacity building as a way to not only educate and improve people’s relationships with the natural world, but also as a means to improve individual health outcomes and alleviate social isolation.

Co-op Cred is fits into the above framework by giving people in the Parkdale community the ability to take part in the planning, tending, harvesting, eating and overall enjoyment of the garden spaces while offering an opportunity for community members to pursue flexible work arrangement. In turn, those community members can use that credit to obtain affordable food items as well as hopefully support local economies. I think that when people are able to identify as stakeholders in a project or their community, its not long before you can see how their care and personal investment ripples through the broader community and makes positive impact.

If you are interested in volunteering with Greenest City, you can sign up for their newsletter to find out when the next volunteer opportunity is.

HR4RF 2019!

It was a lovely day at Budapest Park, the new site of the Humber Walk & Ride4RealFood! Thank you to all the positive riders, walkers, fundraisers, and volunteers who came out to the Walk & Ride4RealFood this year. We had 35 riders and walkers and welcomed lots of families at our event! With generous donations from local vendors, chef Sonya Gammal made a delicious picnic spread that everyone enjoyed. Participants also enjoyed tunes from PARC musicians to round out the day.

If you would still like to donate, you can do so until June 30th at

HR4RF 2018!

A BIG thank you to our wonderful Riders, Fundraisers, and Volunteers who showed up with big smiles, positive energy and rain gear to complete this year's Ride4RealFood. It was a shorter Ride this year as the rain was energetically falling but we still had our usual delicious picnic. The West End Food Co-op, with donations from multiple vendors, whipped up a yummy lunch. The PARC musicians also braved the rain to perform for everyone.

If you would still like to donate, you can do so at

Co-op Cred Presents at U of T

On January 25, 2018 Co-op Cred participants Ann Lapenna and James Semple presented the ins and outs of the Co-op Cred program to the students in the Urban Political Economy class of the Human Geography course at University of Toronto Scarborough. This presentation has now been made 2 years in a row and Professor Michelle Buckley cites it as a highlight of the course.

Ann and James not only highlighted their specific placements and the responsibilities associated with them but shared the impact of the program in their lives. They also successfully fielded tons of student questions!

A big thank you to Ann and James for representing Co-op Cred!

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Ann Lapenna

sharing her Co-op Cred role and experiences with the students at U of T Scarborough.

Bring Food Home 2017

Co-op Cred was pleased to present, as part of the PARC team, at the Sustain Ontario Bring Food Home 2017 conference on October 27th in Ottawa.

PARC presented three initiatives aimed at improving food security in Toronto at the micro (in our local neighborhood) and macro (across the city) levels. These initiatives included FoodReach, Creating Health Plus and Co-op Cred. Our messaging focused on 3 areas:

  • The role of food as the center of a holistic program model. Food security is not simply access to healthy food; PARC’s programs improve food literacy, reduce social isolation, support chronic disease prevention and promotes employment skill development.
  • The success of PARC’s cross-sectoral and diverse collaborative strategies. Partnerships are the lifeblood of all our programs!
  • The acquisition of first hand examples of system solutions in action.

Our hope was that attendees investigate replicating aspects of our program models in their own communities.

Ride Day 2017

Ride Day 2017, Sunday September 10, was a spectacular day! Mother Nature rewarded us with a clear, sunny and warm day.

This year's Ride would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our volunteer Ride committee; our wonderful partners:  West End Food Co-op, Toronto Regional Conservation Authority & the Centre for Mindfulness Studies; Pre-Ride & Ride Day volunteers; our generous sponsors; & all of the Riders who fund raised to support the Co-op Cred Program. Thank you!

Here are some photos....

What's Cooking At West End Food Co-op?

West End Food Co-op (WEFC) is a long-time friend and partner of Co-op Cred. WEFC currently works with 4 in-kitchen Co-op Cred participants. Working in the kitchen allows participants to gain experience in more ways than one.  From food handling, preparation and safety skills, to communication and team building skills, participants describe the program to be an ongoing learning experience.

Sonya Gammal, Kitchen Coordinator, has been making sourdough bread at West End Food Coop for 4 years now!

Sonya Gammal, Kitchen Coordinator, has been making sourdough bread at West End Food Coop for 4 years now!

There’s always something yummy cooking in the West End Food Co-op Kitchen! Aside from the daily Grab n’ Go’s and fresh meals made in-store, West End Food Co-op hosts monthly workshops in their kitchen.

On July 5th, the Co-op Kitchen Team accommodated a full house of 12 participants during the Sourdough Bread Workshop. Not only do participants have the opportunity to make their own sourdough loaves, but they are taught the history, theory, and practice of its making.

The Parkdale sourdough starter is prepped the day before. When participants come in for the workshop, they are guided through the process of using and making the bread. Participants also learn about the fermentation process, which is friendly for the gut! The dough works by resting, and involves a no knead method. Best of all, participants get to take home a freshly baked loaf!

West End Food Co-op also offers subsidized spots for their workshops. This provides food training and healthy eating to those who may not otherwise have access to such programming. By working together, West End Food Co-op and the participants create more than just bread; they create a hub for healthy eating that is accessible to all. The West End Food Co-op workshops are tasty, educational, and fun!

Every participant walks away with knowledge, hands-on skills, and new friendships! Don’t forget about the sourdough!

To learn more about this amazing workshop, along with the many other programs that West End Food Co-op offers, click here!  

Taking The Lead

Sonam Yangzom, long time Co-op Cred member and gardener extraordinaire has stepped in to lead this year's gardening team. On Wednesday June 7, Sonam, along with several other participants, took to the Dunn Garden to work under the hot sun. Sonam’s incredible green thumb shone as her passion and leadership radiated throughout the day. Members worked together to plant seeds, water the crops and do good for the community. From carrots and peas, to beets and beans, everyone’s contributions made the gardening easy peasy.

New Seeds, New Beginnings

Monique Kelemen, Greenest City's long time program coordinator and Co-op Cred supervisor of Dunn Garden, has left us to begin a new adventure studying social work at Dalhousie University. She left us with these parting words…

"It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Greenest City and the Parkdale Community.

I came to Greenest City in 2013 looking for a volunteer opportunity to occupy my time, and I am leaving a totally different person. It is because of my time here that I have decided to move to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Social Work at Dalhousie University.

In this community, I learned that food is just the beginning of the conversation. At Greenest City, the food grown in our community gardens is not going to lift anyone out of food insecurity, but the relationships and growth of self-esteem instead is what really affects change. I moved to Toronto – to Parkdale - at a pivotal point in my life. I was lacking in friends and confidence, but quickly found it in the gardens. And the days are rare now that I walk down Queen Street West and don't hear my name or exchange a wave across the street.

In HOPE Garden, I learned that even a tiny piece of land can mean the world to someone.

In Milky Way Garden, I learned that while we may face pesky squirrels in our own plot, our neighbour may be facing elephants.

In Dunn Garden, I learned that even the smallest of tomato plants can survive in a wind tunnel with a little support.

And in Parkdale, I learned that communities are so much richer when a diversity of lived experiences come together to share a meal.

So thank-you, to everyone that welcomed me into your community through a smile, a wave, a momo, or a tomato. I feel so fortunate to have spent four years of my life in this community and hope to return one day."

-Monique Kelemen

We wish her the best on her next chapter and we want to thank her for her four years of loyalty, support and hard work for the Co-op Cred program.

We will miss you Monique!!