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Reimagine Food Story: Community FEWD (Food Equity With Dignity)

Posted on: November 16, 2023

In Guelph, Ontario, a culinary revolution is taking place, led by local chef, Yasi Zorlutuna. Community FEWD, a mobile solution addressing food insecurity and waste, is transforming surplus ingredients into gourmet meals and bringing affordable, nutritious food to neighbourhoods across the city. This social enterprise is not just about feeding the hungry; it’s a testament to the power of community, sustainability, and love. As Chef Yasi puts it :

“Food is the first form of love we receive as humans.” 

Chef Yasi’s vision for Community FEWD emerged in 2019, sparked by a chef conference where she heard about the logistical challenges of dealing with surplus food. This revelation became a call to action, and during the pandemic, Chef Yasi began laying the groundwork for a project that would not only address food insecurity but also tackle the pressing issue of surplus ingredients and food waste.

Community FEWD offers a gourmet food experience that is free for all, with the option for patrons to make a donation as they are able to. The goal of the project is to transform surplus ingredients into delicious, nutritious meals accessible to everyone, fostering a sense of food dignity within the community.

“It is an operation that marries commercial food service operations with grassroots community organising, outreach and care.”

– Program Lead

One of the unique aspects of Community FEWD is its commitment to working with raw product and unprocessed ingredients. By intercepting surplus food that would otherwise end up in landfills due to aesthetic imperfections, the team transforms these ingredients into beautiful, hot take-home meals. This approach of food preparation relies on the same methods used within farm-to-table restaurants and other celebrated food businesses. Since there is no fixed menu, FEWD draws on the creativity, skills and flexibility of experienced cooks to transform the ingredients available into nourishing community meals.

“As a chef, we are natural food rescuers. We make something out of nothing. And [Community FEWD is] using that skill and knowledge for good instead of for profit.”

– Chef Yasi

This initiative is possible thanks to “a strategic network of collaborative partnerships, [including] local food security groups and food-rescue organisations, markets, local farms and those working towards a more equitable food system.”

Community FEWD operates as a program of the Guelph Neighborhood Support Coalition, working closely with other local organisations like the SEED. The initiative has received funding through the nutritious workstream of Our Food Future, showcasing the community’s commitment to sustainable food practices. Chef Yasi also benefited from a mentorship program at 10C, where she was guided by Julia Grady, contributing to the program’s genesis.

This emphasis on collaboration distinguishes Community FEWD as an initiative striving for unity. FEWD aims to complement existing services and resolve gaps that hinder further surplus diversion. They prioritize community consultations and connections to ensure that the operation is addressing community needs, and that meal offerings are culturally appropriate. 

woman packing meals

Understanding the importance of catering to diverse populations and prioritising food dignity, Community FEWD adjusts its menu based on the location and ethnic makeup of the neighbourhood it serves. For instance, within the Shelldale neighbourhood, they offer a halal option and avoid cooking with pork. This thoughtful approach ensures that there’s something for everyone, respecting the cultural and dietary preferences of the community.

To sustain its mission, Community FEWD operates as a social enterprise, offering catering services to generate revenue. This innovative approach allows the program to gain some financial independence while continuing to provide affordable and nutritious meals to the community.

This operation relies on the support from teams of volunteers and students who help maximise the potential of surplus ingredients. If you are interested in learning more about this project or wish to get involved, please contact communityfewd@guelphneighbourhoods.org with general inquiries. Be sure to check out the Community FEWD website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with the project and schedule! 

Overall, Community FEWD is more than a food program; it’s a manifestation of the community’s commitment to using existing skills and resources for the greater good. By rescuing surplus food, tailoring meals for diverse communities, and fostering a sense of food dignity, Community FEWD is making a significant impact in Guelph. As the program expands to multiple locations, it serves as a beacon of hope, bringing delicious meals and a sense of community to those who need it most.

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