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Recipe for a helping hand

SAIT instructors and alumni team up with members of local food scene to bring lunches to vulnerable youth.

When the Government of Alberta moved to online learning for K-12 schools in mid-March in response to COVID-19, local food blogger Julie Van Rosendaal along with SAIT culinary instructors Andrew Hewson, Simon Dunn and Patricia Koyich knew there was a huge risk for Calgary’s vulnerable youth who depended on attending school to eat.

“School lunch programs are critical in certain communities, and there are kids who rely on those meals every day. We started asking questions — how can we help, what do we have, what can we work with?” Koyich says.

Hewson and Van Rosendaal both had existing relationships with several community organizations in the city that could help distribute the food, but the team still needed a safe space to prepare the meals while maintaining safe social distancing practices. That’s when SAIT alumni Paul Rogalski (PCK '86) stepped in.

“Paul’s restaurant, Rouge, is closed due to the pandemic, so he offered us the use of his kitchen,” Koyich says. “Andrew and Julie access food through donations, and the small team prepares lunch boxes to help fill the gap left by the suspension of school lunch programs.

“Next we’re devising a plan to help our colleagues in the restaurant industry. Food usually brings us together across a table, but now it’s bringing us together in ways we can support our community.”

You can help by supporting the pop-up market at Rouge on Fridays from 1 to 4 pm and the soon to be announced ATB Boostr fund. 100% of all monies go back into feeding the children and communities at risk during this unprecedented time.

*Writer’s note: The food and hospitality industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic physical distancing restrictions, and these chefs and restaurant owners are still using their resources to help others. There are ways you can support our local hospitality industry, too — order takeout from your favourite local restaurant or purchase gift cards to use once physical distancing measures have been relaxed.

Find out more about SAIT’s everyday heroes — the front-line alumni, instructors, employees and students using their skills to make a difference.