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Syrian refugees upcycle food for new Halifax desserts business

Syrian refugees upcycle food for new Halifax desserts business
WATCH ABOVE: Syrian refugees upcycle food for new Halifax desserts business. Steve Silva reports.

A Halifax group that includes three Syrian refugees launched a business on Saturday that offers Syrian desserts made from what’s known as upcycled food.

“Even though they barely have the language skills, they’ve only been here six months and they’ve already started a business. I mean, how awesome is that?” Sylvia Gawad, founder of Piece of the East, said.

The business is in the form of a booth operating on weekends at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.

The jams, cookies, and biscuits, among other treats, are made from extra food provided by the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank.

Alaa AlHraki, who volunteered with the bank,  said he came to Canada from Syria with “zero English” but did bring his culinary experience.

He makes the desserts with two other refugees.

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Alaa AlHraki, pictured in Halifax on Jan. 21, 2017, makes deserts for Piece of the East.
Alaa AlHraki, pictured in Halifax on Jan. 21, 2017, makes desserts for Piece of the East. Steve Silva / Global News

Gawad said the success of the business so far is thanks to community support.

Hope Blooms offered kitchen space, and its participants helped the group learn how to sell products at the farmers’ market, she said.

The business is being run as a social enterprise; part of the profits will go to helping refugees with disabilities.

“It’s personal for [one of the refugees in the group] because he has three siblings with disabilities and his father as well, so it hits home with him,” Gawad said.

The hope is that Piece of the East will offer more than just desserts in the future, she added, and the ultimate aim is to open a restaurant operated on a pay-what-you-can basis.

Sylvia Gawad, pictured in Halifax on Jan. 21, 2017, is the founder of Piece of the East.
Sylvia Gawad, pictured in Halifax on Jan. 21, 2017, is the founder of Piece of the East. Steve Silva / Global News

Nova Scotia’s Immigration Minister Lena Diab, who lived in Lebanon when she was a child (according to her website), attended the grand opening and was asked if the treats passed the taste test.

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“It has. It’s pretty good, it’s pretty good, and I’d know the difference,” she responded with a laugh.