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Feeding thousands of hungry young athletes is no easy feat

Thursday's 'snowmageddon' threw a wrench into plans for winter games athletes, but team found creative ways to make it work
2020-02-28 Ontario Winter Games food
Sarah Valiquette-Thompson, food services co-chair for the Orillia 2020 Ontario Winter Games, is shown with Alex Cherubin, owner of Shine Juice Bar and Café, one of the local businesses preparing meals for athletes. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

When Thursday’s snowstorm led to the cancellation of buses to bring athletes into town, those tasked with feeding them had to get creative.

The plan was to shuttle athletes who are staying out of town into the city for the Orillia 2020 Ontario Winter Games opening ceremonies — and to feed them at specific locations here.

“Because of snowmageddon, we had athletes in Barrie and other locations that couldn’t make it to the food locations,” said Sarah Valiquette-Thompson, who, along with her husband, Ian Thompson, is chair of food services for the games.

That’s when the games’ “food partners” jumped into action. Volunteers ended up delivering the meals to the athletes staying at hotels out of town. When Valiquette-Thompson contacted Horseshoe Resort, for example, and asked if it was OK if someone delivered meals to athletes there, she was told, “No problem.”

“It was so amazing to see everyone say, ‘How can we feed these athletes?’” she said.

There are a number of food partners on board for the winter games, including local restaurants Tre Sorelle, Eclectic Café, CiaoChowCiao and Shine Juice Bar and Café. Others include venues such as Georgian College, Lakehead University, Horseshoe Resort, Fern Resort, YMCA Geneva Park and Liberty North.

Seeing all of them come together to make sure athletes get their three daily meals has been “awesome,” Valiquette-Thompson said.

“Our food community is stellar. I always knew it, but (Thursday) night, I got to see it in a different way,” she said.

In a change from the 2018 games that Orillia also hosted, the committee has enlisted the services of one food provider — Shine Juice Bar and Café — to look after most of the meals for athletes with dietary restrictions.

Shine is a plant-based kitchen, so owner Alex Cherubin was excited about the opportunity.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “We’re constantly dealing with special diets, so I feel we’re set up to do it.”

Shine has some extra help in the kitchen during the games — “an A1 team,” as Cherubin put it — and those who are getting meals from the downtown business are in for a treat.

On Friday, they enjoyed a burrito bowl with rice, beans, corn, refried beans and a crispy slaw. Saturday, they’ll have a Mediterranean dish with quinoa, arugula, roasted red peppers and other goodies.

“Being someone who has dietary restrictions, I know the winter games are doing an exceptional job for the athletes,” Cherubin said.

For Valiquette-Thompson, it’s a privilege to lead a team that is showcasing local food to thousands of athletes from around the province. It hasn’t been easy, though.

“We love sports and we love food, so it made sense (to take on the role of chair), but I didn’t think of how extensive the role was,” she said with a laugh. “It’s been a lot of learning, but it’s been lots of fun. We have a great group.”


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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