Food for Thought Blog

Belonging Through Food at the Cambridge Food Bank

February 10th, 2022Agencies

Chaitali Maybhate “Chai”, the Health Promoter from the Cambridge Food Bank, curates cooking programs that best meet the needs of program participants. More than an opportunity to prepare healthy meals, Chai’s workshops nourish the body and mind by creating a welcoming space for participants to connect through food.

As Chai shares, “I am glad to spread health literacy messages through my role as Health Promoter at the Cambridge Food Bank”.

Since March 22, 2019, Chai has been running multiple culinary programs for the Cambridge Food Bank including Lunch and Learn and Global Kitchen. Program participants learn about the local foods that enrich our lives, Canada’s Food Guide, and what services and supports are available to ensure everyone has access to the healthy foods they need.

Recently, the Cambridge Food Bank, in partnership with the Kinbridge Community Association, and the city of Cambridge, started the weekly ‘Nutrition and Wellness Workshops’ for senior newcomers aged 55 or older. For this series, Chai is hosting 8 consecutive workshops and there are supports available for community members to participate in these online sessions. The workshops are funded by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada and are supporting the members of our community who are often unfamiliar with the local food system and anxious about finding and affording healthy food.

Program participants are encouraged to pick-up ingredients from Cambridge Food Bank’s Mobile Market where a selection of fresh and non-perishable food is available for a flat rate of $5.00. The Mobile Market also accepts donations and is open to anyone in the Cambridge and North Dumfries area who can benefit from getting access to fresh, healthy food.

As Chai explains, “I create icebreakers for newcomers from different backgrounds to share in the experience of cooking together, to enjoy dishes from different cultures, and to adapt recipes so we enjoy meals with less sugar, salt, and fat”.

Every week Chai introduces new recipes. Some participants listen and observe Chai’s actions, a few participants follow Chai’s movements and complete the recipes at home, and others light-up when a dish they are familiar with is featured and they have the opportunity to share stories and see others enjoy comfort foods from around the world. Together, the class fosters a sense of belonging as newcomers get acquainted with each other and the foods that are available locally.

“Canada is like a salad bowl; everybody retains their own identity, and it is important to bring people together to ensure everyone can benefit from feeling a part of a community that helps people eat well and celebrates recipes from all over the world” says Chai

With every culinary program she leads Chai takes the time to nurture relationships with each participant.

In doing so, Chai is able to highlight creative substitutions like using aquafaba as egg replacement in baking for individuals with an egg allergy. The Nutrition and Wellness Workshops for senior newcomers started on January 18th, 2022, and participants have begun to engage and get excited about the local food system including learning to read nutritional labels.

Through the culinary programs at the Cambridge Food Bank, individuals can build connections with vital service providers and develop new skills that support a person’s overall health and wellbeing.  To learn more about the Nutrition and Wellness Workshops for senior newcomers aged 55 or over and to register contact the Kinbridge Community Association at or call 226-789-0469. These Nutrition and Wellness Workshops run every Tuesday between 3:45pm and 5:00pm. This series ends March 8th, 2022.

The Nutrition and Wellness Workshops for senior newcomers is just one example of emergency food assistance in our community. In Waterloo Region, there is a collaborative network of 100+ community programs and agency partners – known as the Community Food Assistance Network – working together to provide access to emergency food and other vital supports to people when and where they need it.