CAMH clients are learning how food choices can impact their lives through a unique initiative called Thought for Food.
Co-hosted by CAMH’s new Integrated Day Treatment service and University in the Community, Thought for Food includes hands-on demonstrations by chefs and community food experts. Every Wednesday, clients meet to prepare, cook and eat a unique meal with an industry professional.
The Thought for Food group
More than cooking
Thought for Food began in 2013 when University in the Community – a provider of free, adult education – approached CAMH with the idea of offering a healthy eating, healthy living class.
“The inspiration for the class was healthy, easy-to-prepare, inexpensive food,” explained Joanne Mackay-Bennett, Course Coordinator at University in the Community.
But for Joanne, there’s a lot more to Thought for Food than cooking. “I’m a big believer in finding small moments of human connection to offset some of life’s gravitational pull, and for me, food is just one of those connectors.”
Clients Nicole and Christina (left) dice ingredients and have a chat with Joanne (right)
“Thought for Food helps people with mood and anxiety challenges to relax, socialize, develop a new skill and have fun,” said Julianna McLeod, Recreational Therapist at CAMH. “The classes bring clients together in a safe and healing environment.” Julianna spoke of Joanne in particular when she said, “her enthusiasm for food and the conversations that it sparks has allowed some individuals to leave their diagnosis behind and open up in a way that’s joyful to watch.”
Class is in session
Recently, CAMH welcomed Globe and Mail food columnist, Lucy Waverman to lead a Thought for Food session. “Cooking can be very peaceful and relaxing; you bring joy to the people you feed,” Lucy told the class. “My true passion is for teaching, and so I’m happy to be here to teach you today.”
Lucy rolls pizza dough as she outlines the recipe for the class
For this class, the group prepared ‘monkey bread.’ “We start with pizza dough, and from there, you can add virtually anything you’d like,” Lucy explained. “Today we’re going to make savory bread using tomatoes, basil, garlic and black olives.”
Fresh baked monkey bread sits next to some of its main ingredients
Thank you to the volunteers
Joanne, Julianna and the rest of CAMH are thankful to everyone who has been a part of this great initiative. “I can’t say enough about all of the volunteers who have participated in the program,” said Joanne. “Toronto food advocates are the most uplifting and generous group of people you’ll find!”
Special thanks go out to the instructors who have volunteered their time to the fall sessions:
- Donna Armes , Teacher, Food Enthusiast and Healthy Eating Advocate
- Doug Penfold, Chef and Owner, Cava Restaurant
- Suzanne Long, Expert on Heritage Apples
- Lucy Waverman, Food Columnist, Globe and Mail
- Sharon Booy, Recipe Developer, Caterer and Owner, Sharon Dishes
- Emily McKenzie, Food Skills Coordinator at Community Food Centres, Regent Park
- Maha Barsoom, Chef and Owner, Maha’s Fine Egyptian Food