Hope Does Spring.
Good news, too, sparks hope. And good food fixes just about anything. Good food accelerates good causes, eases shy people's discomfort, bridges differences, deepens friendships. So on a bright, cold spring day, appreciation to DDF, who sent a story about The Stop Community Centre in Toronto, "that uses food to build hope and skills, and to reach out to those who need a meal, a hand and a voice. What was once a simple food bank is now a thriving, internationally respected Community Food Centre with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse, farmers’ markets and a mission to revolutionize our food system."
This week, Random House Canada published The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement, by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis. Marion Nestle praises it here.
Saul became executive director of The Stop in 1998, when, according to the online book blurb, "the little urban food bank was like thousands of other cramped, dreary, makeshift spaces, a last-hope refuge where desperate people could stave off hunger for one more day with a hamper full of canned salt, sugar and fat. The produce was wilted and the packaged foods were industry castoffs—mislabelled products and misguided experiments that no one wanted to buy. For users of the food bank, knowing that this was their best bet for a meal was a humiliating experience."
The new book traces The Stop's growth from a typical, uninspired feeding program to a thriving, inventive community food centre (as the Canadians spell it, bless their hearts.) For a hint of the scope of The Stop's work, here's the "What We Do" portion of The Stop's mission: "The Stop has two locations: at our main office at 1884 Davenport Road we provide frontline services to our community, including a drop-in, food bank, perinatal program, community action program, bake ovens and markets, community cooking, community advocacy, sustainable food systems education and urban agriculture. The Stop’s Green Barn, located in the Wychwood Barns at 601 Christie Street, is a sustainable food production and education centre which houses a state-of-the-art greenhouse, food systems education programs, a sheltered garden, our Global Roots Garden, community bake oven and compost demonstration centre."
In addition, The Stop uses smart food and drink events to raise money for its work. A Summer Solstice Night Market in 2012 attracted a huge crowd to sample top (volunteer) chefs' creations. This event and others, including beer-based fund-raising (like West Sixth Brewing Company's monthly Sixth for a Cause events), and premium catering, raise enough funds to provide over 55,000 meals and engage 1,100 children in education programs, according to Jessica Allen, writing for Maclean's. It's wonderful to have examples of ways other cities are building sustainable food systems that, in the words of The Stop's mission statement, "increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community and challenges inequality."
Central Kentuckians may get ideas from about the power of integrating initiatives that exist in our region now, but usually operate as separate activities. Let's be in each others' kitchens, talking these things through.