2020 -



What We've Done in Year 1

New Ways to Listen to, Connect With, and Support Students

This year required that we find new ways to listen to students and to support them. We built a virtual space, facilitated access to food, and developed programming that guided students to create nourishing meals. Between December and March, over 250 students engaged in our programs using ingredients accessed through grocery gift cards or free local food boxes. We learned that even when it occurs in a virtual space, healthy food programming can make it easy for students to develop food literacy and participate in a community and a culture of care.

Jennifer Mitsche

Jennifer Mitsche

Project Director

Our 2020/2021 team

Jaimie White

PA Coordinator

Jaimie works as the Engagement Lead at Meal Exchange, has an academic background in nutrition & food security, and is passionate about building community (and changing the world!) through food.

Favorite Kitchen Tool/Gadget:
Dutch oven

Jennifer Mitsche

Project Director

Jennifer is a professor teaching Food Studies Research Methods at George Brown College, a researcher trying to find innovative ways to change campus food culture, and the founder of the Communal Lunch Project. She is interested in the social function of food and the power of people cooking and eating together.

Joshna Maharaj

Project Collaborator

Joshna is a chef, author & activist who cares a lot about people’s relationship with food. She works to rebuild food systems in public institutions putting hospitality and sustainability as a top priority.

Favourite Kitchen Tool/Gadget:

My well-seasoned cast iron pan!

Himani Deshpande

Project Assistant

Himani is an Earth Science and Physical Geography student at Carleton University whose interests focus on the intersection of environmental science and urban studies through agriculture, food security, and sustainability.

Favorite Kitchen Tool/Gadget:


Aasreen Sood

Project Assistant

Aasreen is a Business Administration student at George Brown College. She is passionate about cooking as it allows her to try out new things and make a connection with other individuals.

Most underrated veggie:
Red pepper

Sanjana Sharma

Research Assistant

Sanjana is studying Computer Science at Lakehead University and enjoys connecting with students by talking about different recipes and food injustice.

Top Three Spices:
Red chilies, coriander powder, garam masala

Alessandra Chan

Project Assistant

Alessandra is studying Political Science at the University of Calgary, working towards building education initiatives for topics on mental health, homelessness, and fair trade with the aim of reducing inequalities.

Midnight Snack: 
Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal

Jaclyn MacNeil

Project Assistant

Jaclyn (she/her) is studying Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University. She is passionate about cultural food security, food sovereignty, loves trying new foods and cooking with family and friends.

Favorite Kitchen Tool/Gadget:

Citrus reamer

Trung Le (Kyle)

Student Researcher

Kyle is studying Game Programming at George Brown College. He’s a home cook who has a strong interest in food science.

Useful Kitchen Hack:
If you need to boil something, do it as the first step in food prep.

2020/2021 Campus Partners

Seneca College Newnham Residence

Residence offers the opportunity to be a part of a welcoming community that embraces the unique experience of our students and fosters a culture of inclusivity. This is achieved through programming focused on wellness, academics, diversity, citizenship, and interpersonal development.

Humber College Residence

Living in Residence is a living and learning experience. It’s where new adventures are shared, lifelong relationships are formed, and big ideas are born.

The George Residence

In addition to developing life skills and becoming involved in campus life, students also have the opportunity to contribute to a unique and diverse community. The George houses students from across the globe, resulting in a truly unique setting, rich with different cultures, languages and stories.

100km Foods (Food Supplier)

100km Foods fosters genuine, authentic relationships between you and the 100+ Ontario farmers and producers in our network who grow your food. We source-identify every product that we sell by the farm that grew it or the producer who made it so you always know where your food is coming from.



Student-led IG Live Cooking Sessions


Epsiodes of Ask Joshna


Virtual Workshops
 & Cook Alongs



Year in Review

Take a look at our Year 1 events and workshops that helped university and college administrations across Canada support their students through food.

October 2020 – February 2021

Website Learn Section
and Ask Joshna Series

23 posts and 10 episodes
The Learn section on the Communal Lunch Project website was built to support students by sharing cooking skills, shopping and kitchen tips, and recipes from Chef Joshna Maharaj and some of our student Project Assistants. “Ask Joshna” began as a weekly series. On Instagram @communallunch, we encouraged students to ask Chef Joshna their food and cooking questions and she created a video to answer their questions each week. Some of their questions would also become the foundation of subsequent Learn section posts.

November 2020

Virtual Lunch Hangouts

20 Hangouts
The lunch hangouts were our initial attempt at transitioning our in-person program to a virtual setting. Project Assistants (PAs) hosted regularly scheduled Zoom meetings that students would sign up for. On the day of the event, students would hang out and discuss topics around campus food culture and eat lunch in the company of others if they felt like it. During one well-attended virtual hangout, a Culinary Arts student asked if anyone minded if he cooked while they chatted. As Aasreen Sood, the PA host for this event, described it, “It was a huge success – “everyone was mesmerized!” This was the seed for the next idea: virtual cook-alongs.

December 2020 – March 2021

Virtual Cook Along Events

5 events
We brought together the structured learning from the Ask Joshna series and the casual get-together vibe of the Virtual Lunch Hangout to create a Virtual Cook-along series. We hosted three cook-alongs that were open to any students, as well as two collaborative cook-alongs, one with Ryerson University students and another with Lakehead University students.

February – March 2021

Food and Identity

2 events
Chef Bashir Munye is passionate about promoting the diverse food that represents Toronto’s multicultural communities, and he advocates for access to good quality food for everyone. These workshops focused on the experience of migration and finding a sense of belonging in food and cooking. Chef Bashir’s workshop built on his Nomadic Comfort Food projects which examine the intersectionality of Local and Diversity. Each event was centered around a cooking demo in his home kitchen, using ingredients which sparked engaging conversations around food and identity.

February – March 2021

Students-Teaching-Students on IG Live

9 events
For this series of events, we collaborated with three Culinary Arts students, Jose Marianne Proulx, Felipe Gombossy, and Rekha Jeyachandran, from George Brown College who co-hosted live cooking demos with the PAs on Instagram Live. They each let their unique interests and experiences guide the types of dishes they created. But they all had in common a general theme: affordable ways to cook with simple ingredients in ways that reduce waste. Each session was a unique opportunity for students to engage in the Instagram Live chat with other students, ask questions, and share knowledge.

March 2021

Students-in-Residence Cook Along

2 events
This series was our first partnership with college administrations. We worked with the Residence Life teams at Humber College, Seneca College, and George Brown College to launch a virtual cook-along series that recognizes the constraints that students living in residence face when it comes to cooking for themselves.

It was also our first partnership with a local food supplier. 100km Foods is a local food distributor in Toronto connecting restaurants and consumers with some of the freshest, high-quality ingredients Ontario has to offer. They curated food boxes, which were paid for by the college administrations, so students had access to the ingredients they needed for each cook-along. The residence team members who we worked with said that their students loved cooking a meal in the virtual company of others!

Student project assistant Testimonial

My interest with food prior to joining the Communal Lunch Project stemmed primarily from a love of gardening. Planting a small vegetable patch every summer with family growing up were experiences of bonding that I cherish now. However, it was not until the project that I began to dig deeper into my relationship with food and cooking as a part of my Indian heritage. Shared experiences discussed with other students at cook-alongs has been part of my journey in understanding how food fits in with my cultural identity.

The cook-along sessions provide students with the opportunity to learn from an experienced, well-versed chef who has worked with students for many years and understands what they are looking for. To make a homemade meal does not mean it needs to be complicated and time-consuming. Instead, students can learn the tricks to make the entire process faster, easier, and less stressful. The project serves students in different parts of the country in a way that has not been accomplished until now. A simple homemade dish made by one’s hands can go a long way, mentally and physically, in a student’s life.

— Himani Deshpande, Carleton University '21

Thank You to our Partners and Supporters

The Communal Lunch Project has been able to create spaces for post-secondary students to learn about and to connect through good food because of the contribution and support from the following individuals and organizations this year.

We’d like to recognize and thank:

Chef Bashir Munye

GBC Culinary students who helped build the IG Live “Students Teaching Students” series Jose Marianne Proulx, Felipe Gombossy, and Rekha Jeyachandran

Residence teams at Humber College, Seneca College and George Brown College; and George Brown College Student Life (Toronto)

100km Foods (Toronto)