Second Harvest’s Harvest Kitchens Program Photoshoot at the YMCA Cafe

For the past two years, I have been involved in capturing images for Second Harvest - my favourite charity organization in Toronto. Started in 1985, the organization is unlike any other in that it rescues surplus food, prepares meals with the items found, and delivers them to those in need across the city - to the tune of 100-million lbs! Their motto is simple and to the point, "No Waste. No Hunger." and I couldn't agree more. It is unfortunate that hunger is still a prevalent issue in this day and age, especially in a world-class city such has Toronto. According to Second Harvest, "1 in every 8 Canadian families struggles to put food on the table... 32% of the food bank's clients are children."

On an early morning last week, I packed up my gear and headed to the YMCA Cafe to photograph YMCA culinary students doing meal preps before the delivery truck arrived for the usual daily drop-off / pick-up routine. With less than one hour to capture everything and having to deal with some shy-types, I sprung into action.

The produce and products that these students work with are all salvaged from distributors, grocery stores, and restaurants all across the Greater Toronto Area. With these goods, they're able to create delicious and nutritious meals for up to 25,000 people daily.

Working in the hot kitchen was this lovely lady making a type of beef and potato stew that smelled incredible. A big smile on her face and a great attitude are what makes the Harvest Kitchens program such a success. Adults and youth needing to gain skills for employment can earn their experience while helping out thousands in need. A true win-win recipe!

Rounding out the shot list, I had to get some showcasing the actual meal containers being prepared. Each one of these trays is filled with some great meals including Butter Chicken, Roasted Potatoes with Beef, and others that are then shipped off to food banks and program centers around the city. Just before 9am, the rush began to get everything ready and like clockwork the entire crew went into action like a well-oil machine.

Always arriving with fresh produce and a smile on his face is Santiago - one of four drivers that makes rounds daily doing pick-ups and drop-offs.

Parked in the shipping area awaiting the transfer of produce and prepped food trays, the Second Harvest truck looks like a gateway to happiness for many across Toronto. It was a pleasure to not only witness how this great program works first-hand, but also to lend my time and skill set behind the camera. Even though it may be cheesy, I'll end this blog on a quote that truly struck a cord with me and it will for you as well.

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.
— Nelson Mandela

For more information on how you can help this great organization, please visit Second Harvest.

Photo Credits / Specs:

© 2016 Giancarlo Pawelec | PAWELECphoto
Clients: Second Harvest
Location: YMCA Cafe (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Camera: Canon 1Dx
Lens: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L
Lighting: Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT