In times of crisis, some of the biggest lessons take place outside the classroom.

In April, Food Banks Canada announced a 20 per cent increase in demand, no doubt a result of job losses facing millions of Canadians across the country as businesses fight to survive the closures and restrictions put in place to help manage the outbreak of COVID-19. According to Bloomberg, by late-March, 11 per cent of the Canadian workforce filed for unemployment; that’s approximately 2.13 million people, many of whom will have turned to non-profit and charitable organizations to help put food on the table.

Since March, an unassuming culinary dream team has joined forces to rescue food destined for the dump and turned it into life-saving meals for community members in need. Working with local charities throughout the GTA, John Placko and his wife Judie Prattes, and Keith Hoare and his wife Joanne Hebert, have found a way to help shoulder the burden facing food banks and centres facing a devastating shortage of supplies.

John Placko is the Culinary Director at Modern Culinary Academy. Hoare is a culinary instructor at Thistletown Collegiate in Etobicoke and no stranger to helping those in need. In fact, earlier this year, Keith was named recipient of the Restaurants Canada Award of Excellence. Hebert, is also a culinary instructor, teaching students of St. Francis Xavier in Mississauga.

Combining their skills in the kitchen with Judie Prattes help in preparing and packaging meals, the two couples have been working tirelessly to rescue food from distributors, restaurants, hotels and culinary schools; redirecting it to those in need, and flipping it into delicious homemade meals ready for distribution. The couples have received donations of food and financial support from a variety of sources, from restaurants and associations to private donors looking to lend a hand and fill in the gaps such as packaging and labelling.

To date, the foursome has cooked and delivered over 15,000 meals and 6,000 desserts to over 10 food banks and centres in Toronto, Mississauga and Burlington including Good Shepherd, Mississauga Food Bank, and Wellington Square-Ministry Meals Food Bank Program.

That’s 10,000 meals cooked by Hoare and Hebert, and 5,000 meals plus 6,000 desserts prepared by the Plackos. Meals are prepared fresh following strict food safety guidelines and are either delivered fresh, or prepared in advance and frozen prior to distribution. And, as is to be expected in times of COVID-19, delivery includes contactless pick-ups and delivery.

For information on how to get involved, contact John Placko at: