Dec 17th, 2012 by Avery Peters, Communications Intern
Not Far From The Tree picks a lot of fruit every year. You may be wondering where it all goes. The fruit is divided in thirds: 1/3 to homeowners; 1/3 to volunteers; and 1/3 to food banks, shelters and community kitchens. We wanted to give you a little insight into one of the community kitchens that we donate to: Sistering.
Sistering serves women of Toronto who are homeless, marginalized or low-income. One of their most-used services is their drop-in service where women have access to a community of women, hot meals and support. I met with Sistering’s drop-in coordinator, Carol Allain, and chef, Carol Gray, to ask them a few questions about what they do with the fruit they receive from Not Far From The Tree and how it benefits their programs for women in Toronto.
Avery: What is your role at Sistering?
Carol Allain: I’m the drop-in manager. I oversee all of the drop-in services and programs, including the food program.
A: How often do you use the fruit from Not Far From The Tree?
CA: We use the fruit from Not Far From The Tree as part of the meals, because we serve fruit with all of our meals. The meals conform to the Canada Food Guide, so we have the protein, carbs, fruit and vegetables. A typical lunch, depending on whether or not you’re vegetarian, would include chicken, beef, pork or ribs and then a side of potatoes, pasta or rice. Then you would have a green salad, steamed vegetables, a slice of bread and a piece of fruit.
A: Normally you serve the fruit fresh?
CA: Yes. I think at one point we got grapes and we could’ve opened a winery with all the grapes that you gave us! If we kept all of them to serve fresh they would’ve gone bad. What we did was give all of the women who drop-in some to take home so that it didn’t go to waste.
A: What type of fruit did you mostly receive from Not Far from the Tree this year?
CA: I think we got pears, apples and grapes.
A: Where do you usually get fruit from if you don’t get it from Not Far From The Tree?
CA: We usually buy from Field to Table, Daily Bread or Second Harvest food banks. Sometimes we also get fruit and vegetables directly from the Ontario Food Terminal if we can get there. Sometimes we buy from No Frills as well.
A: How do you get funding for your meal program?
CA: Our meal program is supported mostly through donations because the government doesn’t give us money for that, so we fundraise.
A: Have you received any feedback from the community here? Do they enjoy the fruit?
CA: Oh yes. Especially when they get to take some home. 99% of the women here are on a fixed income, so it’s very difficult for them to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
A: Can you speak at all to what urban food means to you?
CA: I think for me eating fruit that’s closer to home supports everybody. It supports farmers, it supports people who are in lower income so that they can get the food a little cheaper because it’s not coming from so far away.
We are going to be renovating our kitchen, hopefully by mid-next year we should be finished. We’re going to start doing some community food activities. One of the things that women have been wanting to do is to make jams and jellies and sauces to sell. So, if we get grapes like we did a couple of months ago they’ll be making grape jelly.
After I spoke with Carol Allain, she took me downstairs to meet the head chef in the Kitchen, Carol Gray. Since it was late October when I visited the kitchen there were crates of squash everywhere and some of the staff and volunteers were peeling potatoes for lunch. I had a few questions for Carol G. about how she served the fruit from Not Far From The Tree.
Avery: Do you usually serve the fruit fresh?
Carol Gray: I serve it right away.
A: What about apples, if they’re smaller what do you do with them?
CG: You know what, I still serve them, but what I do is make an apple sauce.
A: Is there a most memorable experience with receiving the fruit?
CG: When you guys came right on time, honey, when we had no fruit (laughs). Early one morning I thought, boy . . . It was an answer to prayers to get the fruit from you. That was really neat. I was really excited. At first the volunteer looked at me strangely, but I knew what was happening.
A: So do you prepare all of the meals every day?
CG: Yes. Breakfast and lunch.
So you’re finished now eh? Finished for the season? Well thank you so much. It’s been a really good thing.
Sistering is raising funds for a new kitchen next year. Right now their kitchen is too small to support the number of women they prepare meals for. If you would like to watch a video on their plans for the kitchen, you can watch it here.