Cooking and Food Skills

Cooking & Connecting with Chai and the Cambridge Food Bank

We live in a world that is increasingly isolated and disconnected. With the rise of social media and digital technology, it’s easy to forget the importance of human connection and the benefits that come with being part of a community. That’s why we want to take a moment to acknowledge the work that Chai is doing at the Cambridge Food Bank.

Chai runs an incredible program that not only helps people connect with each other but also teaches them how to make low-cost nutrient-dense snacks and meals.

Here are 5 reasons why engaging with others within your community through activities like cooking can be so beneficial:

  1. Community building: Activities like cooking with others can help you build relationships and connect with people in your community. This sense of connection and belonging is crucial for our mental and emotional well-being.

  2. Learning new skills: Participating in cooking activities can help you learn new skills and techniques, as well as gain knowledge about healthy eating and nutrition.

  3. Nutrition: Cooking with others can be a great way to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals as everyone can contribute their knowledge and experience. 

  4. Fun and enjoyable: Cooking with others can be a fun and enjoyable activity, especially when you are working together towards a common goal. It can help you feel more relaxed, engaged, and fulfilled.

  5. Improved mental health: Engaging in activities with others has been shown to improve mental health outcomes, such as reducing stress and increasing feelings of happiness and well-being.

Participant Creations

Participant Testimonials

We’ve heard great testimonials from the participants of the adult programming here at the Cambridge Food Bank. We encourage everyone to take advantage of opportunities to engage with others within their community, whether it’s through cooking or other activities.

Have questions or would like to register?  Contact Chai at 519-622-6550 ext 220 or cmaybhate@cambridgefoodbank.org

Our Mobile Food Market Provides Affordable Produce to Make Fresh Baby Food

Making your own baby food is easy, efficient, and economical. Instead of spending money on prepackaged baby food, you can use fresh produce, grains, and meat that you have on hand. Best of all, you’ll know exactly what you’re feeding your baby.

Going the do-it-yourself route also gets your baby used to eating the same food the rest of the family does.

Homemade baby food is also more nutritious and tastier than some store-bought food as it is made from fresh, whole foods and nothing else. 

Gena, one of our mobile food market customers enjoys visiting our weekly markets as she’s able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables to prepare her daughter’s baby food with. On December 6th, 2022, Gena shares

“Thanks for my haul today. Made applesauce for the baby and now roasted the squash, boiled the sweet potatoes and carrots to make baby food for the upcoming week.” Gena’s daughter is featured in the image.

Want to save money by creating your own baby food? Here are some easy-to-follow instructions and click here to see a list of our mobile food market locations.

Everyone can shop at our mobile food market and each week a selection of food will be available for a minimum, subsidized flat rate of $5. Our cost is $10 and those who can or wish to pay $10 or more can do so to support those who are living on a low income. The type and amount of food available at each pick-up will vary but there will be a minimum of 5 varieties of produce with 4 servings of each offered each week.

Thank you, Gena, for sharing your story. We hope you’ve inspired others to find affordable ways to create fresh baby food for their little ones.

Five great reasons kids should learn how to cook

As parents, raising a child who is a picky eater can be challenging especially if you’re trying to develop a healthy eating style.  What if it didn’t have to be difficult?  Google can show us many ways to avoid picky eaters, but reading doesn’t create results, actions do.

The Cambridge Food Bank believes that raising a child who genuinely enjoys eating nutritious food takes practice.  Our Wellness Hub features a weekly youth program run by Vanessa, to help support parents in the Cambridge and North Dumfries area to raise children who are nutritionally diverse in their eating styles. 

Here are Vanessa’s top five reasons kids should learn how to cook

  1. Kids build confidence and comfort in the kitchen
  2. Kids are more likely to try new foods prior to forming an opinion of them
  3. It expands their pallets to more nutrient-dense foods
  4. It increases their kitchen knowledge, safety, and terminology
  5. It creates a sense of pride

The youth program is disguised as fun for kids but contains many educational lessons.

Parents share their child’s 2022 program experiences

  1. “Ada has learned how to do many things in the kitchen. She now has the confidence to make the family breakfast.”
  2. “The Food Bank programs provided simple and healthy recipes that children loved to make. The reality is, if my child makes it, she’s going to eat it. So the inclusion of so many fruits and veggies has made her diet more diverse.”
  3. “Vanessa makes the classes so much fun plus they get to snack and try new foods while they cook. Also, the look of pure pride on her face when she makes a delicious meal for her family is priceless.”
  4. “My daughter loves the programs because she likes to eat, wants to know how to do more in the kitchen and because Vanessa is awesome!”
  5. “I have so many stories to share about our experiences with the Food Bank classes. It has made cooking time, family time. But my favorite story has to be where my daughter and her friend spoiled their dinner on veggies and a healthy yogurt dip they made with Vanessa. Let me say that again, they spoiled their dinner on veggies!!! Unheard of. As stated before, these classes are great and I tell all the other parents about it. My daughter’s friends are constantly asking to come over for the classes and quite a few of these recipes have become family favorites.”

Visit our website to learn more about the 2023 Wellness Hub, contact Vanessa at 519-622-6550 ext. 109 or vtoncic@cambridgefoodbank.org

**This cooking program is provided at no cost and all supplies are included.

Squash – Types, Benefits and Recipes

Fall is the season of squash. The produce section of any supermarket prominently displays various squashes – butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash to name a few.

Types of squashes

Squashes come in many varieties– from small zucchini to large pumpkins. They also have
a variety of colours, shades of yellow, green, and orange and are a delight to see. Commonly available squashes are butternut squash, acorn squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, Hubbard
squash, and Kabocha squash. Some other types are Delicata Squash, Carnival Squash, Gold Nugget
Squash, Buttercup Squash, Banana Squash, Autumn Cup Squash, Ambercup Squash, Sweet Dumpling Squash and Turban Squash.

Health Benefits of Squash

Squash is nutrient-rich and mainly contains vitamins A and C. It provides numerous health benefits,
some of which are listed below

  1. Good for Heart Health: Squash contains magnesium which helps to reduce the risk of heart
    attack and stroke. Magnesium along with potassium helps in reducing high blood pressure.
    Vitamin C and beta-carotene levels help in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol.
  2. Prevents Cancer: The high content of antioxidants in squash helps in eliminating free radicals
    from our bodies. The beta-carotene in squash provides protection from pollutants and
    chemicals that can lead to cancer. Squash contains Vitamin C that prevents premature aging and
    cancer. It also inhibits cell division. Squash also contains vitamin A which provides protection
    against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  3. Healthy Bones: Squash contains loads of manganese and vitamin C. Manganese helps in building
    bone structure and increases calcium absorption. Vitamin C is involved in the production of Collagen which is important for building bone mass.
  4. Good for Eyes: The dietary lutein in squash plays an important role in preventing the onset of
    cataracts and macular degeneration.
  5. Improves Colon Health: The high amount of fibers in squash helps in taking toxins out of our
  6. Diabetes: Squash has a low glycemic index and is helpful in stabilizing sugar levels. Certain squash
    varieties like pumpkin contain a polysaccharide known as pectin. Pectin helps in regulating blood
    sugar levels thus preventing the risk of Type2 diabetes.
  7. Rich source of Carotenoids: squashes contain a high level of carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene,
    lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene. These carotenoids help in the prevention and treatment of age-
    related macular degeneration, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Squash Recipes to Try

Kitchen Volunteers Saving the Day (and bread)!

The Cambridge Food Bank works hard to keep as much food out of the landfill as possible; using the power of volunteers our Food Rescue program has saved thousands of pounds of food from going to waste. What we save can vary based on what food is in abundance; during this specific week, we focused on bread that was no longer at peak freshness but is still good to eat. Our kitchen team got right to work chopping and seasoning bread to make delicious croutons that will be distributed to those using the food bank’s emergency hamper program. Whether added to a salad, a soup or a casserole, homemade croutons can be seasoned to your taste and add an extra crunch to your meal.

A big thank you to Oluyinka and Akingbade who join us every week in our kitchen to send food to bellies, not the landfill.

Back to School- Tips for healthy lunches on a budget

While summer is winding down, grocery prices continue to soar making back-to-school meal planning more challenging than ever. Finding ways to reduce food expenses while still sending the kiddos off with tasty, healthy meals can be a struggle. Here are some tips to help you start the school year off right!

Don’t forget to repurpose leftovers. 

There are tons of possibilities all of which save you money and prevent food waste. Leftover pasta can be turned into a pasta salad. Leftover chicken can be sliced or shredded for wraps. Soup is a wonderful way to use leftovers and create a healthy, delicious meal for later that week. Check out our favourite soup recipes here.

Make your own Lunchables

Crackers, meat, and cheese can be sent in a container so that kids can put them together as they would the store-bought kind. Choose your child’s favourites so that they feel it is made special just for them, better than the packaged ones.

Let the kids wrap it up. 

Kids love “creating” their own lunches and putting lunch components in containers rather than building sandwiches saves time. Include small tortillas and fillings your kids like (such as ham and cheese, chicken and veggies, or cheese and salsa). They can assemble the wraps once it’s time to eat. 

Prepare your own fresh fruit.

Want to get your kids to eat more fruit while cutting costs? Slash your spending by looking out for fresh fruit on sale, buying what’s in season and freezing any surplus. Here is a fun tip – instead of buying expensive little bags of pre-cut apples – slice and core your own, then put them back together as a whole and tie it with an elastic band. This discourages browning and keeps the pieces juicy!

Buy in bulk.

Visit the local Bulk Barn or any grocery where you can weigh your own and buy bulk. Dried fruit, mini pretzels, nut-free granola and other snacks can be stored in jars at home and put into food containers for lunches. You will save by not buying overpriced, individually wrapped snack bags.

Research cost friendly recipes and fun lunch ideas online.

There are a ton of great lunch ideas at your fingertips. Check out our favourite budget-friendly lunch recipes here