Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto – Caring Cooks: Helping Families One Meal at a Time

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto keeps families of seriously ill children close to each other and to the care they need in its 81-family House in downtown Toronto. More than just a place to stay, RMHC Toronto also provides a range of support programs to meet the practical and emotional needs of families. A 2015 study indicated a need for innovative, educational and fun cooking classes to engage and empower these families. 

George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt), along with the students and faculty at both the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts and Centre for Health Sciences, co-created a six-week course of interactive cooking classes. The team also researched and developed twelve age-appropriate recipes for the RMHC Toronto Caring Cooks program. The content included instructions in healthy eating and easy food preparation without sacrificing nutrition — to dispel the myths that healthy food is always expensive and its preparation time consuming. The teams co-piloted the program with staff at RMHC Toronto. They also gathered qualitative feedback and data from the families (end-users) about the program’s immediate impact, plus how to enhance it. The result was nine recipes that are simple to prepare and meet specific illness or dietary requirements (e.g. energy dense, plant-based ingredients, easy to swallow, portable snacks for hospital visits). The final phase of the project entails the creation of a ‘marketing toolkit’ with promotional materials and recipe pamphlets. The intention? To reach RMHC chapters nationally and globally, potentially impacting the lives of thousands of families.