Agency Profile: Carita's

“Providing fresh, healthy food for people who really need it is an essential part of our programming,”explains Brendan Penfound, Carita’s School of Life Therapeutic Coordinator. ”We are guided strongly by the phrase ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ and consider it an essential component of our community-based approach to rehabilitation.”

Founded more than 35 years ago by Father Gianni Carparelli, Carita’s is a men’s therapeutic community that offers rehabilitative programs for men struggling with mental health and addiction. Carita’s operates two residential facilities as well as a centralized location in the Steeles and Islington area, for day programming and intake services. Clients range in age from 18-50 and can spend up to two years at Carita’s, graduating through 6-month phases of their program.

Individuals are responsible for planning and preparing meals for their fellow residents and as such, food plays a big role in their treatment plan. As a new Second Harvest partner agency, Carita’s has been receiving weekly food deliveries for the past 6 months. “Some of our clients have never cooked before in their life, so to have to cook lunch and dinner for their fellow residents is a new life skill. A lot of our rehabilitative programming is about nutrition. Menu planning, budgeting, table settings – it all really helps develop life skills and set them up for success in the real world.”

Many men were formerly homeless or came from broken families where balanced nutrition was not a part of their lifestyle. “Food is an everyday part of all of our lives and for our clients, where three meals a day has been previously unheard of, a healthy diet is a big thing,” explains Brendan.“You can partake in group sessions and receive therapy, but if you don’t have the energy to participate because you’re lacking in health and nutrition…being able to provide healthy meals is crucial.”

Part of Carita’s programming includes teaching residents table etiquette, place settings and appropriate behaviour for eating together. “We feel this is an important part of modifying behaviour as part of the rehabilitative process. One person’s actions affect another’s, so this is all part of teaching our clients how to live together peacefully in a community, a skill that will take them above and beyond our program,” notes Brendan.

Support from Second Harvest has provided almost 36,000 pounds of food in the past 6 months. “Having scheduled, weekly donations from Second Harvest takes a lot of strain off us so we can put that funding directly back into programs.


image:  Joey (client, Carita’s), preparing food