Food for Change: A Night Out with ING DIRECT Canada

Last month, Jaime Stein (Social Media Manager for ING DIRECT Canada) invited me to join him and members of ING’s social media and community investment teams for dinner at one of the outreach programs they sponsor.

The Stop, a centre that helps bring healthy foods to local communities, hosts a monthly event called Food for Change – an intimate dining experience in support of The Stop’s innovative programs that fight hunger, build health and community, and inspire change.

On November 15th, I met Jaime, Rashel, Nadine and Marissa at The Stop’s Green Barn, located at Wychwood Barns at 601 Christie Street. Walking into the greenhouse for a tour, where we would later dine, my nose was immediately filled with the smell of fresh soil and clean air. The aroma was intoxicating, as I hadn’t smelled anything that refreshing since my last visit to British Columbia, and my eyesight began to glow from all of the wonderful oxygen in the room.

Listening to our host explain the food systems education programs, sheltered gardens, community farmer’s markets and bake oven events, I quickly realized why ING supported this Toronto initiative. On top of providing healthy food to local communities, The Stop’s mission is to encourage community members to build their own support networks, so people can connect to resources they may not otherwise find on their own. (Can you imagine sharing your backyard garden beds with your neighbours? The Stop can.)

While the theme for November’s event was “Sea-to-Sea,” Chef Chris Brown (Group of 7 Chefs) treated me to a vegetarian meal of my very own. Tomato soup, grilled eggplant salad, homemade ricotta tortellini, a tofu entrée and a dessert duo left me full and happy. The good company and hilarious conversation didn’t hurt either. But the biggest takeaway for me personally was seeing how passionate all of the volunteers were; a feeling I used to experience every time I walked a dog or raised money for the Victoria BC SPCA.

It might be time for me to finally admit that I haven’t been feeling very connected to Toronto lately. I love my job, my living situation is amazing, and I have been enjoying finally getting to know all of my online friends in-person. But I still don’t feel like a resident of this city. Since my night out with ING, I have been looking into a number of different volunteer opportunities here. From becoming a Big Sister, to helping promote financial literacy to youth, the options are seemingly endless.

Food for Thought

Until I find an organization in Toronto I can donate my time to, I would still like to help the Victoria BC SPCA. Since 2009, I have been a volunteer dog walker and fundraiser for the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. I have seen dogs lose limbs and pass away after being involved in car accidents where drivers fled the scenes; and I’ve also seen dogs and cats get adopted after being at the shelter for more than 500 days.

This organization will forever hold a piece of my heart and, if there’s one thing I can do (with the help of ING) this Christmas, this is it. For the month of December, if you open an account with $100+ and use my Orange Key (38888248S1), we’ll both get a $50 bonus. Since I cannot physically volunteer at the Victoria BC SPCA this year, I will donate all of my bonuses to them.

To Jaime, Rashel, Nadine, Chef Chris Brown and everyone at The Stop: Thank you again for the invitation, the delicious food, and the new connections. I am so very grateful that my night at The Stop showed me how I could feel more connected to this city.


  1. This is such an awesome opportunity and I’m so glad you shared your experience here on the blog! What ING Direct Canada is a part of is really great. And of course now that you’re volunteering your bonuses makes it even better!

  2. Wow very cool! Food looks amazing too!

    • Cait

      December 6, 2012 at 7:01 am

      It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I can seriously still taste the tortellini…

  3. I’ve always wanted to volunteer with the Humane Society, or something similar, but I’m concerned about getting too emotional seeing all the cruelty some of these animals have had to face. I know I would grow attached and want to take all the kitties and puppies home (but I can’t; already have 2 cats and live in a basement apartment). Was that an issue for you as a dog walker?

    (If I didn’t already have an ING account, I’d sign up to help out!)

    • Cait

      December 6, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Hmm, sometimes that was an issue. But animals got adopted pretty quickly, so it felt even better knowing they were out of their kennels and into new homes. :)

  4. This is a post after my own heart! Food security/global food chains/whatnot are one of my passions. Plus, the food looks AMAZEBALLS. (Ahem, I’ve wanted to use that in a sentence for awhile now.)
    My cousin has a garden in a retired couples’ backyard. It is a fantastic arrangement! She said they are super sweet and never even want to accept things she offers them from the garden, they’re just so happy to see someone make use of it when they can’t/don’t want to.

    • Cait

      December 6, 2012 at 7:04 am

      Anne, that’s an amazing story! How nice of them to offer their property, and her to offer them food from it. <3

  5. Thanks for walking us through this opportunity that you experienced. I’m sure in time you will find what you are looking for and Toronto will feel like home. Smiles Cait! Cheers Mr.CBB

  6. How long have you been living in Toronto? A few months? I’ve been living in my rural community for 16 months and only LAST WEEK did I walk into a local food grocer that I’ve been frequently all this time and felt “home”. Feeling at home and connected to your community takes time, you can’t expect to make that adjustment in such a short time.

    That said, getting involved in community initiatives is a great way to facilitate that connection. If I didn’t already have an ING account, I would totally open one to help you out. :)

    • Cait

      December 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Jordann. I feel at home in so many ways here, already… but I’m not building many new relationships, or forming any new connections, and that’s where I’m feeling a disconnect. Hopefully volunteering somewhere does help with that!

  7. I volunteered at the Toronto Humane Society a few years ago and while I don’t recommend that place due to the financial…issues, mismanagement and double-speak over there, I know friends who volunteer with animals at the Toronto Animal Services. There are a few locations to choose and they would love experienced volunteers.

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