Behind the Scenes: The making of A Safe Plate: Recipes and Stories of Young People from Child Welfare

Behind the Scenes

In the spring of 2023, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada joined forces with young people from different parts of the country to cook up something truly special: an e-cookbook that goes beyond just recipes to amplify the voices of youth from child welfare. With the generous support of Chef Frank Parhizgar, Owner and Head Chef of FK Restaurant, who provided his talent and restaurant space for the team to create and photograph the youth’s recipes, the Foundation and nine young people set out to capture the importance of resilience, strength, and belonging through the magic of food.

As the cookbook started taking shape, it became clear that it was more than just a collection of recipes—it was a glimpse into the lives of those who have found comfort and connection in the kitchen. Each dish, each story, is a celebration of the sense of home and belonging that transcends boundaries, reflecting the indomitable spirit of those who have walked the path of the child welfare system.

A Safe Plate Cookbook Cover

Creating the cookbook

Together with our Young People’s Advisory Council (YPAC), we decided on the cookbook’s theme of comfort and safety and the team at Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and YPAC embarked on a mission to find young people who had previously experienced the child welfare system. Through social media outreach, the power of community, and other channels, we connected with nine remarkable individuals from across Canada.

From the west coast, the Foundation worked with Lexi, who shared her Jumbo Pasta recipe, RJ, who contributed their Mushroom Pork Chops recipe, and Christina, whose ‘On a Budget’ Chili recipe  was a kitchen staple. From the east coast, Jessie-Lynn shared her grandmother’s Yorkshire Pudding recipe. The Foundation also worked with many young people from Ontario, including Chanice, who shared her Macaroni Pie recipe, Chelsea, whose Pizza Nachos reminded her of her siblings, Nancy, whose Khmer Fried Rice and Spring Rolls recipe was traditional and delicious, Jada, who shared her Voodoo Chicken and Shrimp Pasta recipe and Jay, whose Potato and Lemon Salmon recipe is famous to their loved ones.

With the guidance of writer Emily Dontsos, we conducted interviews to uncover moments where they felt most at home and the dishes that held a special place in their lives. From these conversations, recipes emerged, each serving as a pillar of comfort and connection in the lives of these resilient individuals. Photographers Erin Slater and Josh Boyer also worked to capture portraits of the youth for the book. Guided by the personal tales shared by the youth, the team headed to FK Restaurant, where Chef Frank Parhizgar generously opened his doors to bring the recipes to life. As Chef Frank worked his magic in the kitchen, the team hustled to capture the essence of each dish, with food photographer Reena Newman snapping of each dish recreating scenes reminiscent of the stories they had gathered. Through their collaboration, they aimed not only to showcase the food within the cookbook but also to evoke the emotions and memories that make each dish truly special.

With the recipes cooked, the stories written, and the photographs ready to go, the team dedicated themselves to the final stages of bringing A Safe Plate to life. Collaborating closely with Principles, a creative agency, we ensured that every aspect of the cookbook was meticulously crafted to resonate with our audience. From layout to typography, Principles brought their expertise to the table, helping to elevate the visual storytelling and ensure that A Safe Plate was as impactful as possible.

Behind the Scenes of Pizza Nachos

Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO of the Foundation, was excited about the project as the cookbook was in its final stages. “Food and storytelling are key ingredients to what us makes us human. We know food fuels our bodies but, it also feeds our soul by building community, culture, and connection. With A Safe Plate, we have created a space to hold not only recipes from youth formerly in care, but stories too. Stories of struggle, resilience, self-discovery, and the incredible power of food to reflect who we are at our core and who we’ve become.”

Release day! Bringing A Safe Plate to the World

After months of hard work, A Safe Plate: Recipes and Stories of Young People from Child Welfare was published on November 14, 2023. Media outlets across the country took notice, excited to share the cookbook’s inspiring stories and recipes. From CBC Radio Manitoba and CIAD Montreal to CBC Sudbury and Here and Now, the cookbook’s message resonated far and wide. Global News Montreal, CBC Radio One, and As It Happens also spotlighted the cookbook, sparking conversations about the transformative power of food in fostering connection and belonging.

RJ in an interview

The buzz continued to build as A Safe Plate garnered attention from print media as well, such as Winnipeg Free Press, CTV Morning Live Winnipeg and the Montreal Gazette. With each mention, A Safe Plate found its way into the hearts and homes of countless individuals, inspiring them to download the cookbook, share its message, and become champions for change in their communities. The cookbook was also shared online with the help of Raymond Jordan Johnson-Brown at @theonlyrjjb, Siobhan Detkavich at @siobhandetkavich, Zenia Irani @thezeniairani, Abbey Sharp @abbey’sKitchen, Nat and Tony @myfoodnation, Tithi Vaghela @foodatra, and Sammy Barcelos @mammas_gang. As of March 2024, the cookbook has been downloaded over 8,000 times!


Working with our partner, the KARE Foundation

The cookbook’s launch was met with enthusiastic support from the KARE Foundation, whose generous partnership helped amplify the impact of each download as our match partner. Through their collaboration, A Safe Plate became more than just a cookbook—with every download, the KARE Foundation donated $5 to the support of children, youth, and families involved in the child welfare system.* The cookbook’s story isn’t over yet – we continue to share its recipes and stories with Canadians across the country. Get your copy now!



About Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada is our country’s leading charity dedicated to standing up for children and families involved in the child welfare system and standing alongside youth with lived experience. We raise and grant funds and deliver a wide range of high-impact programs and services in partnership with 104 child- and youth-serving agencies across the country. Last year, we supported over 15,000 children, youth, and families.

More Ways You Can Help

In addition to downloading A Safe Plate, you can further support children, youth and families in these ways:

  • Donate: Make a donation to Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada to help remove barriers for children and youth involved in child welfare and encourage a better tomorrow.
  • Fundraise: Organize your own fundraiser with friends and family to rally support and resources.
  • Share: Spread the word about A Safe Plate with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok using the hashtag #ASafePlate. Your actions can inspire positive change.

Thank you to our media sponsor Adapt Media for their support of A Safe Plate.