Montreal-based charity makes food security a top priority during COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'Solidarity Kitchens is busy preparing holiday gift baskets' Solidarity Kitchens is busy preparing holiday gift baskets
WATCH: A local program feeds those in need and supplies work for those in the hard hit food industry.

With food insecurity becoming a bigger problem since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, a local non-profit organization stepped up with a new initiative called Solidarity Kitchens.

It’s the brainchild of Jean-Francois Archambault, CEO and founder of La Tablée des chefs. Roughly translated as the chef’s table, the non-profit first got its start in 20O2. Its mission is to teach youth how to cook and to feed people in need through a food recovery program.

“We involve chefs in recovering their excess food to feed people in need,” Archambault said.

The organization is also present in over 150 high schools across Quebec.

We educate youth on developing culinary skills and knowledge to become independent in the kitchen and share the pleasure of cooking together with their families and friends,” Archambault said.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: 2021 will have ‘famines of biblical proportions,’ Nobel UN agency warns

The program isn’t just limited to Quebec though.

We run a pilot project in six other provinces across the country where we reach over 3,000 that are getting involved, just like they would in the basketball team or in the school play.”

When the pandemic hit, however, Archambault noticed that a shortage of volunteers meant there were fewer people in community kitchens cooking meals for people in need.

“We’re [short] of volunteers because the volunteers were in an age group that were at risk,” he said. “So they were told by our premier to stay at home and avoid any risk.”

Read more: Bell Centre kitchens cooking up food for charity amid coronavirus pandemic

Archambault that’s when he got the idea for Solidarity Kitchens. He reached out to a few friends to talk about getting chefs back into their kitchens to prepare meals for food banks.

So we reached out to the food banks and we analyzed the needs and they came back to us with 400,000 meals a month that would be needed back in March, April,” Archambault said.

Story continues below advertisement

The group reached out to farmers and food producers, Sobeys and IGA, who all agreed to join in the effort.

Fast forward to the present day and local chefs have prepared more than 2 million meals for Canadians in need.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Making meals to help those in need' Coronavirus: Making meals to help those in need
Coronavirus: Making meals to help those in need – May 5, 2020

But there is still work to be done.

“We’re going back at it,” Archambault said, pointing out the pandemic isn’t over yet. “Food security is at the most important.”

To help fund the Solidarity Kitchens initiative, the organization has come up with a new idea just in time for the holidays: Solidarity Baskets.

The baskets are filled with goodies developed by chefs who took part in the Solidarity Kitchen’s efforts, as well as a recipe book from a famous chef, an apron and a special message.

Story continues below advertisement

Archambault said that in this time of need it’s important to help others but it’s also important to treat yourself.

Read more: Global Give Back: Chef Ben Kramer’s ‘Made With Love’

So we thought that gifts from the chefs would be the best way to give and to receive at the same time,” he said.

The baskets can be ordered on The Tablée des Chefs’ website.