Photo C/O Canadian Pacific Railway
For the past 20 years, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train has traveled across Canada and the United States, spreading holiday cheer and making donations to food banks at each of its stops. This year, it will be making its annual Hamilton stop on the evening of Nov. 28, in Gage Park.
The Holiday Train is always decked in festive lights and decorations. At each of its stops one of the train cars opens up to reveal a stage for a live concert performance. Both the concert and the event itself are free. The featured musicians will include Alan Doyle — formerly of Great Big Sea — and Beautiful Band. While guests are encouraged to donate non-perishable items to Hamilton Food Share, it’s not mandatory.
“Nothing there costs anything, so even families who might not have a lot of extra can come out and enjoy [the event] as a kickoff to the holiday season to get into the festive spirit,” said Celeste Taylor, the Resource Development Manager for Hamilton Food Share.
Every month, over 13,000 people in the city, including almost 5,000 children, need a food bank every month. As rent in the city continues to increase, food is becoming more difficult to access for many. According to the Hamilton Hunger Report 2019, households who access a food bank spend, on average, more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, increasing the risk of displacement or homelessness. Food is an important part of most holiday traditions, and it can be difficult to celebrate when there’s nothing to put on the table.
Food is an important part of most holiday traditions, and it can be difficult to celebrate when there’s nothing to put on the table.
“Everybody wants to celebrate, whether they’re celebrating Christmas or another holiday, they want to be able to be with their family or to be with the people they care about and food is often central to that. It’s a method of social inclusion when people are able to have the food they need to make a meal. The other part is, here in Hamilton we have such a high percentage of people who are struggling so much with paying the rent that sometimes there just isn’t anything left to buy food with . . . It’s not just holiday food, it’s also being able to put a meal on the table,” said Taylor.
Taylor says that there are many other ways that the community can get involved. “The other thing that people can do is to be looking towards social policy change that would be helping people to cover the expenses of daily life and life’s basics . . . The important message is not that it’s Food Banks or policy change, it’s both.”
Since 1999, the Holiday Train has been contributing donations to local food bank organizations. While the concert in Gage Park is only one night, it’s important to keep that same level of donation energy throughout the year as giving shouldn’t end after the holidays.
The CP Holiday Train will be rolling through Gage Park (1000 Main St. E) on Nov. 28 at 7:45 p.m.
On Dec. 8, 2018 Jamaican Patty Shack food truck owners, Michael Thompson and Wendy Wright, introduced a piece of the island to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. Driven by the positive responses to their twists on classic beef patties, the couple decided to set up shop in a permanent location.
Thompson and Wright started the Jamaican Patty Shack food truck in July 2018 at the Because Beer Craft Beer Festival. The idea had been in their heads for a long time after the Jamaican couple had noticed a lack of availability of patties in the Hamilton area.
Since establishing the food truck, the couple has garnered public recognition that has drawn individuals from far and wide to taste their patties. They recently had a woman from Toronto come to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market simply to have their patties. When they visited Toronto for the Mac & Cheese Festival and Buskerfest last year, they were also invited to Toronto city hall by mayor John Tory.
[spacer height="20px"]The two have been involved in both culinary arts and customer service for a while, having done catering previously. Thompson traces his interest in food service back to his teenage years, working as a manager in Dairy Queen and in a West Indian restaurant called Willie’s Jerk. Wright is a baker and previously worked in a food truck in Toronto. By putting their heads together, the two came up with the idea of a Jamaican patty food truck.
“It's for people on the go. It's fast. It's affordable. Our main aim… was to feed people on the go [for] ten dollars and under [so it’s] easy on the pocket,” said Thompson.
It’s not only the affordability of the patties that has contributed to its wide appeal but the customizability and variety that the Jamaican Patty Shack offers. This is not simply a spot for the traditional beef patty. Customers can top up their patty according to their own taste, adding ingredients such as cheese or jerk chicken or having their patty wrapped, stuffed, or grilled.
[spacer height="20px"]Both out-of-the-box thinkers, the couple is continuously experimenting at home with different flavours. The result is a number of unique twists, such the pattaco — a patty dressed up as a taco — or the reggae patty which is cut open and filled with jerk chicken coleslaw. With their innovations on a traditional recipe, the couple honours the history of the patty.
“Our main slogan is ‘Out of Many, One Patty’ and that's… because of the Jamaican coat of arms which is ‘Out of Many, One People’ and so a lot of different cultures is what comes together to make Jamaica… [T]he patty has evolved from different cultures,” said Thompson.
By setting up shop in the Farmers’ Market, the couple also honours the market tradition in Jamaica. Providing fresh and quality food is important to the duo so they utilize produce from local farmers in their patties.
[spacer height="20px"]Setting up in the market also places Jamaican Patty Shack in the city they love and live in. Since coming to the Farmers’ Market, the Stoney Creek residents have discovered something of a family among the friendly and supportive market crowd. Being able to have personable and meaningful interactions with the members of the community they interact with every day was key to them.
“We want customers to feel happy to come and excited about coming to our spot… We're trying to recreate that little piece of vacation that people have in their mind or in their memories so they come and we have a lit palm tree in the back, some reggae music playing and the service is always positive,” said Wright.
Looking to the future, Thompson and Wright hope to have pop-up shops on the outskirts of Hamilton. They are also looking into donating food to local food banks at the end of the day in order to give back to the community which has supported them as they have established their truck and taken root in the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.