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Black in Halifax: Our latest hero brings love to Dartmouth North one meal at a time

Janice Borden has been holding cooking classes and organizing the breakfast club at the Dartmouth North Community Centre for over a decade.

Janice Borden in the Dartmouth North Community Centre

Zane Woodford / Metro Order this photo

Janice Borden in the Dartmouth North Community Centre

With smiling, inquisitive kids staring up at her, Janice Borden takes her soft but weathered hands and kneads the dough, instructing them how to shape and bake.

This is Borden's everyday. She's been making meals with small children for 13 years at Dartmouth North Community Centre. In addition to weekly cooking classes, she helps organize the daily breakfast club, serving about 75 children a day.

Serving mostly young children of colour — many of them living in poverty — Borden sees the classes and club as a way to be there for kids who don’t have good food options at home. She wants to teach them to be ready for the world and live healthy lives.

“Food is very important; if we don’t have food our bodies are not going to function properly,” says Borden. “The value and importance of food, that was me.”

She knows it well. Born in Guysborough County and raised in Thompsonville (a three-hour drive to the east of Halifax), Borden learned to cook early on to help her parents and 10 siblings amid poverty.

“To me, I learned to love,” she says. “I know what it’s like to be hungry.”

“I love preparing food, I did it all my life, so I was like, ‘Why not do it for someone else? Why not share it?'"

Sitting down at Dartmouth North Community Centre, Borden knows she’s had an impact on the kids there. She speaks fondly about one boy, Tyler, who returned to the community centre after many years. She didn’t recognize him. But he certainly recognized her. And thanked her.

“I taught him the morals of life — with cooking, how to behave,” she says. “That was a wonderful thing. I didn’t know I made that much of a difference to children, but it did.

“He said, ‘Anything I can ever do for you, you let me know,’” she continues, “'because you taught me well and I thank you today for it.’”

While she's helped many boys, Borden has extra compassion for Black girls, who she says suffer undue hardship. She wants to motivate young girls to become role models for others.

“As a Black woman, you have to know how to prepare, how to survive,” she says, her voice raising. “We have to stand up for one another, as Black women. I find there’s not enough Black women that are able to be themselves.

“I find some people make you feel like nothing, but you’re something. You’re beautiful. You shine.”

Like the bread rising in the oven, Borden rises to the occasion.

This story is part of Metro's ongoing Black in Halifax series. Let us know your thoughts on the series, and share your own stories using the hashtag #HalifaxWhileBlack with tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook comments. We may just share it in a future edition.

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