Feeding Fenelon at Christmas
December 18, 2022
Nazmun Rozon, Vincent Parkhurst, and Mitchell Alexander in Front of the Lotus Indian Bistro Sign
This Christmas, two generous volunteers are working very hard to make a difference in their community. Mitchell Alexander and Vincent Parkhurst have recently founded Feeding Fenelon, a community food collective, that offers free community dinners each week. On December 25, they will be offering a Community Holiday Celebration at Lotus Indian Bistro, from 4 to 8 pm. It will be a traditional Christmas dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes, desserts and all the trimmings. Since not everyone can attend in person, their volunteers also offer free delivery. They hope that Feeding Fenelon will be a way for the community to join together and ensure that everyone can enjoy a lovingly prepared holiday feast, and have a warm, welcoming place to visit on Christmas.
Mitch and Vincent got to know each other while working at Lotus Indian Bistro. Mitch had loved cooking since he was a boy—he really enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with his mom, making soups, canning and preserving. He went to Fleming College in Peterborough to train as a chef. Vincent has worked in restaurants for years, usually doing prep work and washing dishes. But Mitch persuaded him to try being a line cook, and they became a great team that turned out all the Indian favourites that Lotus has become known for. But as they worked together, they also realized that they had many of the same interests. They were both eager to build community, and wanted to do something positive together.
Fenelon Falls is a village where food insecurity is often not a prominent issue—there are not large, visible homeless populations as in town and cities. But “we noticed that food insecurity in Fenelon Falls was becoming more and more of an issue,” Vincent explains. “We have both been there. We have both needed something like this and could never find it. No one deserves to go without, or to have to juggle having a nice meal with their rent or phone bill. Building community in a small town is important, and we wanted to offer a drop-in space, even if it is just for coffee and tea. People can come by even if they need someone to talk to.” They also offer free toiletries to anyone in need.
Having lived in larger centres, Mitch was inspired by the work of collectives like Food Not Bombs and the Free Lunch Collective. While some of these organizations make a point of using food that has been discarded, Mitch and Vincent buy groceries like anyone else, but then use their culinary skills to make it into something wonderful. One month ago, they took the plunge and launched their weekly community meal program. They always offer a vegan and a non-vegan option, and though it is hosted at an Indian restaurant, they offer diverse selections. Vincent’s mother helps out by making the desserts. It is a reflection of their heartfelt belief, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.”
Mitch and Vincent were fortunate to have an understanding employer. Nazmun Rozon is happy to support their charitable work, and allowed them to use the Lotus Indian Bistro, free of charge. Though they offered to at least give her something to offset her costs, Naz would not accept any payment and even promotes their events free of charge. Lotus also hosts their Book Box.
Many people who have no issues with food insecurity, might not feel right going to eat at a collective that was founded to help their neighbours in need. “We would welcome anyone coming out and donating so that we can help others. We happily accept food donations, or donations of items for the take what you need table,” Vincent says.
“We believe that our community has everything it needs to take care of everyone who lives there,” Vincent articulates. “We hope that people recognize that kindness is something that is free to share, and is much needed. People all face their own challenges, and empathy is much needed. We are all one community, and we want to work towards supporting each other and building stronger relationships.”
Feeding Fenelon sets out to make a unique gift to the community this Christmas. Anyone can enjoy eating out—families, seniors on fixed incomes, or people who might otherwise be alone. Mitch and Vincent show a lot of inspiration, to ensure that their neighbours in need will not only have something to eat, it will be a restaurant quality dinner. While they don’t have the money to eat out often themselves, they have the skills they developed over many years working in restaurants, and kindness to share their abilities with their village.