Alta, Participant and Garden Assistant

As a teenager, I see lots of news about how the planet is dying and things are terrible but not a lot about what we can do. I like the idea of growing food and cooking it—doing something positive. When I started seeing flyers at my local community centre about The Depot food programs I got really interested.

The first one I did was Boîte à Lunch. We would make a snack and also something we could take to school the next day. There are lots of cooking shows on TV and you watch them and think cooking is an art, like drawing or playing an instrument. But the program showed us that even if you’re young, you can do it. Yeah, there’s talent, but it can be built if you’re passionate.

I now do a lot of cooking at home. I also have a meal prep system and do my school lunches for the week on Sunday. My dad cooks a lot, too. My parents are both from Bangladesh so there are lots of curries and tandoori chicken. My favourite thing to make is a French omelette—it’s really difficult but when you get it right it’s so satisfying.

Altamash Sheikh in the production garden.

This summer I got a job as a garden assistant at The Depot and I really saw what an amazing place it is for our community. Not only for what they do—all the programs and services—but who they are. In NDG everyone comes from different countries, languages, ethnicities. But at The Depot it doesn’t matter where you’re from, your status in society, everyone is treated equally. No disrespect is tolerated there.

Since I started to learn about gardening and cooking, I’ve also become really interested in the story behind food. How it works in our bodies, what we’re getting from it. I’m now volunteering with Boîte à Lunch and doing my IB project for school on the importance of eating breakfast. Lots of young people don’t. I’m not going to lie, I don’t always want to, either. But I’m coming up with cheap, easy, fast breakfast recipes that kids can make on their own, like an oatmeal and banana pancake. Eventually, I’ll do a workshop with the youth, talk about all the benefits and teach them some of the recipes.

Food these days often has a really negative connotation. There’s lots of talk about the dangers, and about eating too much. But what I’ve seen is that good food is the only true way to nourish yourself. It’s an incredible way to get everyone together.