Food literacy, community spirit lifted by Grow Cook Learn

August 28

By Sean Meyer

London Community Resource Centre was founded in 1974, long before Sam Dow was born, but his job today is to build upon a mission it launched more recently, educating people about food literacy.

As the centre’s operations manager — not to mention its only full-time employee — Sam is working creating programming around a skill necessary for a lot of people.
“Basically, what we’re doing is . . . teaching cooking skills or cooking knowledge, anything under the food literacy heading,” he explains. “Food literacy is definitely important. Even as someone who is a young person who has never had much actual education in food, I could benefit from a lot of this stuff. Even simple things like learning how to plan your meals so you aren’t wasting food.”
One of the centre’s larger initiatives involved in establishing community gardens in London.
The community gardens became the centre’s main focus as it ran the program for the city for a number of years before the municipality took that contract back.
Sam says that decision turned out to work in the centre’s favour as it freed the organization up to get back into food literacy.
That new focus — “almost rebranding,” as Sam puts it — led to the creation of Grow Cook Learn, which today is almost the unofficial name of London Community Resource Centre.
All the centre’s programs fall under Grow Cook Learn.
Currently, Sam and his team are working on developing a project currently called Grow Cook Learn in a Box. The project takes previously used ideas, repurposes them, and creates self-contained modules that can be presented as workshops.
Sam sees attention to food literacy as “more of a growing trend,” not just within London, but the global community as well.
“I know before I had this job, I’d never gardened before and now it is my favourite part of the job,” he said. “Growing tomatoes and making tomato sauce. It doesn’t fall under any program necessarily, but the fact I did that, I have that knowledge, is a side-benefit of learning about food literacy. I guess the point is these things aren’t as difficult as they might seem to some people.”
Currently, the centre’s only permanent employee (the executive director retired a year ago), Sam credits the assistance of “a bunch of summer students,” not to mention “a growing team of volunteers,” with that has been accomplished as of late.
As the only employee, and someone self-described as “not much of an office person,” Sam said the organization still needed a space from which to continue its efforts.
That lead him to Innovation Works, something Sam said has made a considerable difference in the centre’s efforts.
Sam enjoys introducing new people to Innovation Works as the reaction is quite often the same. For those who don’t know about the space, Sam said, they’re caught off guard, “struck by just how cool it is.”
Even his own productivity is helped by being at Innovation Works because even though he knows he can work from home, what he gets accomplished in a day is typically boosted by having walked into the space.
“We have an actual address, can receive mail, can take meetings, we have storage space, it’s a very reasonable deal. And also, I’m meeting lots of useful people in the space,” he said. “There are opportunities to learn new things, connect with people. If you need anything there are probably 100 experts here who can help you with it.”
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To spend your time around people just like Sam and his team, consider joining us at Innovation Works!