Rummaging through the donation bin for clothes for her 18-year-old daughter, Amanda Sparks, 39, says she never planned this life for herself or her family.
Sparks and daughter Kennedy have been homeless for two months and they are thankful to have found Sistering, a 24-hour drop-in centre.
“I never wanted to be homeless,” said, Sparks “I’m not sure anyone wants to, but it certainly wasn’t in the works for me and definitely not for my daughter. This place makes it a little more easier though.”
Sistering on Bloor Street W. serves hot meals and snacks to large numbers of women.
Patricia Beard, a food coordinator at the women’s centre for the past eight years, wanted to come up with a binder that educated the kitchen staff in all drop-ins while providing women with high-quality, nutritious food.
“You don’t know how important food is when you have it,” Beard said. “Being able to provide women that aren’t fortunate enough with food that is nutritious, tastes good and helps your brain to function is so important to us.”
With the help of Beard, U of T student Sarah Kassel and her peers got involved with the project through their management of community food systems course.
“This menu tool will be beyond valuable,” Kassel said, “For many of Sistering’s clients this meal is the only meal they are getting in a day.”
Over five weeks the U of T students came up with the nutritious recipes, detailing specific allergens.
Sparks’s daughter has severe allergies and is cautious when eating food served by other drop-in centres.
“It was helpful not having to double check what’s in the food she’s eating,” said Sparks. “I don’t worry as much.”
They also came up with a menu tool with Velcro badges to be shown to women during meal times so they can be aware of specific ingredients.
The centre has become its own Community according to Beard, supporting women throughout their journey.
“We promote women helping women.”