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George Brown College Culinary Program Pays it Forward: Food Security

“On campus, food is like currency” is a common sentiment among university and college students today. Finding inexpensive, yet nutritionally sound food is critical to student success. Sadly, food security poses such a significant challenge for students that most campuses now have their own food banks.

Intrigued by a story we came across about George Brown College on this very topic, we reached out to Chef Jason Inniss, a Professor in the College’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts program.

Chef Inniss was dismayed by the amount of perfectly edible prepared food that regularly ended up in the trash at the end of his classes. Each culinary lesson requires students to create four portions—one for the professor to grade, one for the student to taste and the remaining ones belong to the students to do with as they wish (the ingredients are paid for through course fees). For various reasons, many students weren’t taking their leftover meals with them; some had hours-long commutes on public transit, others had classes which would go late into the evening.

Returning unprepared food items to the school’s inventory stocks, and donating perishables to programs like Second Harvest or Foodshare is standard practice for culinary programs—but prepared foods can’t be restocked or donated.

Recognizing the food-as-currency maxim, Inniss, along with some of his students and other George Brown professors came up with a “Zero Waste” challenge. They reached out to their campus food bank representatives to see if the food could be put to good use. Indeed it could. Now, in addition to the weekly box of non-perishable food items provided to students registered with the food bank, freshly prepared meals are included.

The group intends to build upon their success and the enthusiasm for their ‘food salvage’ initiative by hosting communal cooking nights on campus. George Brown students from all disciplines will prepare hot food alongside their culinary peers, eat that meal together and take leftovers home.

Cooking skills, community-building and great food–what an incredible all-around win for everyone involved!

Interested in helping? Donations are welcomed, but Inniss mentioned the one item they are chronically short on is food containers for the food bank meals. Just get in touch with the George Brown Student Association’s Food Bank to see what is most needed.

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