While COVID-19 may have put a kink in their construction plans, a new canteen at the Central Park arena is nearing completion, and once open, is planned to be run by youth, for youth.
With the help of a $308,700 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant announced in 2020 to be provided over three years, work has been underway by the Environment Network, Elephant Thoughts, the Town of Collingwood and the Collingwood Youth Centre to get the canteen open.
Once open, the goal is for community youth to prepare the food at the canteen with the assistance of a local chef to gain cooking skills. All profits from sales at the canteen will go to support programming at the Collingwood Youth Centre.
“I’m so excited for this. I’ve always been a hockey mom, even though my kid is older now. Neither one of our arenas ever had food options. I’m so excited that the community will now have food options at the arena. Also, that it will be youth-run, youth-organized and the proceeds go back to the youth. It’s full-circle,” said Kerri MacDonald, executive director of Environment Network.
“It excites me that Trillium has given us the opportunity to make this happen.”
Upgrades to the canteen include fire suppression system, venting, an oven with a flat top, a dual fryer and hot plates. In addition, new seating will be added to the foyer of the arena.
“We know we have a very strong youth community that loves culinary, and we know the youth centre can’t keep running off grants for the rest of its lifespan, because that’s how it’s currently being run,” said MacDonald.
“We wanted to figure out an entrepreneurship-type program where we can teach the youth skills they could use to become employable, and at the same time make some money to go back into the youth centre to run programs.”
The menu is planned to include old staples such as fries or hot dogs, and include healthier options such as soups or sandwiches. There will also be a coffee-shop element to the menu, which will include coffee and baked goods.
“We wanted to incorporate healthy foods, while understanding that when people do watch hockey games, they enjoy their fries and gravy,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald is hoping for a Sept. 2021 opening to coincide with hockey season, however she said it will depend on if the arena is being used at that time pending COVID restrictions.
“Our bigger hope for the future is it won’t just be there for hockey season. The baseball diamonds get used all summer. There’s also daytime programming with the elderly,” she said, adding that there will be tables and chairs set up and the area will be wheelchair accessible.
“It’s a neat concept,” said MacDonald.
During COVID-19, the Kids Feeding Kids program at the Collingwood Youth Centre has become the CYC Youth Foodies program, a free four-week culinary exploration program where youth can participate in online classes to sharpen their culinary skills. For more information on the program, click here.