Aangen prepares, serves meals at Better Living Centre shelter

Aangen Community Centre chef Csaba Lukac (right) and Heather Maciel work Friday, Jan. 26 at Toronto Public Health Parkdale preparing the fixings for meals that will be provided to Toronto's homeless staying at the Better Living Centre respite site. - Staff/Metroland
Aangen Community Centre chef Csaba Lukac (right) and Heather Maciel work Friday, Jan. 26 at Toronto Public Health Parkdale preparing the fixings for meals that will be provided to Toronto’s homeless staying at the Better Living Centre respite site. – Staff/Metroland

Csaba Lukac came to Canada two-and-a-half months ago as a refugee from Slovakia and was searching for work when he found Aangen Community Centre.

“They (Aangen) helped me, so I’m helping other people,” he said inside the non-profit’s location on Dovercourt Road near Bloor Street West. “I got help, so I give help to other people and I like it. It’s a good feeling.”

He’s one of several marginalized workers who cook and serve food for Toronto’s homeless at the Better Living Centre respite shelter at Exhibition Place.

It’s an expansion of Aangen’s Chance for Change program, which started as a grassroots pilot project three years ago before becoming permanent.

It employs marginalized community members and offers commercial and residential cleaning services, which have helped staff get back on their feet, said Aangen’s executive director Gurbeen Bhasin.

They got this role through their partnership with social service agency Fred Victor, which manages the shelter at the Better Living Centre.

Bhasin said it’s a “win-win-win on multiple levels” for Aangen because it keeps the organization sustainable by employing people who need work and serving people who need help.

“It’s an experience where we’ve just filled a need. It’s crisis management,” she said. “We’re helping people who need shelter and need food. We’re providing a need that is really basic and is an absolutely fundamental human right. Everybody should have access to food.”

Aangen Community Centre's Zainab Yousif processes garlic for tomatoe sauce Friday, Jan. 26 at Toronto Public Health Parkdale, as she helps prepare the fixings for meals that will be provided to Toronto's homeless staying at the Better Living Centre respite site. - Staff/Metroland
Aangen Community Centre’s Zainab Yousif processes garlic for tomatoe sauce Friday, Jan. 26 at Toronto Public Health Parkdale, as she helps prepare the fixings for meals that will be provided to Toronto’s homeless staying at the Better Living Centre respite site. – Staff/Metroland

Every Friday, the team prepares food it gathered during the week at its kitchen near Dufferin and Queen streets. When the weekend rolls around, roughly 200 vegetarian meals are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, Bhasin added.

Previously, the team was operating out of its shipping container café in McCormick Park, which it plans to operate as a pay-what-you-can soup kitchen once a week later this year.

Aangen staff will serve the food until April 15, which is when the city’s respite centres will close.

Project co-ordinator Heather Maciel said the work is “a lot more than food.”

Original Article From https://www.toronto.com/community-story/8092114-marginalized-workers-find-jobs-by-cooking-food-for-toronto-s-homeless/ reported by Aaron D’Andrea.

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