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Building a community one meal at a time

March 7, 2011

If you don’t live in Toronto, it’s easy to imagine our city as a place of cold grey monoliths where the average citizen has never seen a farm, let alone the food that they’re eating for supper. It’s true. We have some of the biggest buildings in the country, and our role as the bustling business centre for the nation has earned us a reputation for being a hardened bunch. However, when you take a second look around, you realize that Toronto has a big green heart. And strangely, the entrance to that heart is through the city’s stomach.

Located just 2 blocks west and one block south of Dufferin and Bloor, the headquarters for Food Share is located inside of a public school. Food Share is an organization that was created 26 years ago to build communities around the realization of their motto, “Good Healthy Food For All”. By forging partnerships with neighbourhood organizations, Food Share focuses on connecting families and individuals to high quality food that is of good value, as well as being locally, fairly, and sustainably produced. The organization’s programming reflects on food all the way from field to table, and champions food standards and safety through advocacy and programs that address each step of the process from growing and distributing food, to the purchasing and consuming of it.

There are lots of different programs running out of Food Share which over 145 000 Torontonians participate in every month. They include community kitchens and gardening, Field to Table Catering, composting, beekeeping, urban agriculture, Good Food Markets, Baskets, and Cafes, baby, toddler and student nutrition, and fresh produce for schools and community groups. The Good Food programs create a beneficial symbiosis where Torontonians use group purchasing power to obtain lower prices, while at the same time supporting the 25 plus family farms that the Good Food program purchases seasonal fresh produce from. Some not in season produce is also purchased from the Ontario Food Terminal.

As well as being open to everybody, Food Share’s programs are created to be easily replicable in any community, and are scaleable to the amount of income that the neighbourhood is pulling in. Many of the programs that Food Share offers have served as a model for similar programs in communities outside of the Big Smoke. And as for the many Torontonians that do use Food Share Good Food Markets- 52% of both adults and children reported eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. 47% got to know their neighbours better, and an overwhelming 98% thought that market was a great addition to their ‘hood.

***I need to make some time to go here and order a good food basket.

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