Riverdale Good Food Connection
Riverdale Food Working Group
955 Queen Street East, Toronto Ontario, M4M 3P3
November 15, 2012
Overview:We all love food markets; they offer fresh produce, they offer local food and they are close to home. However they are not always affordable for all. Not being able to access healthy food can have serious impacts on the physical and mental health of community residents. Food not only sustains our bodies and our minds, it can be a powerful tool for building a strong and healthy community. Riverdale Good Food Connections wants to provide fresh, local food that is affordable for all. This project will not only increase the availability of fresh food that is high quality, nutritious, and affordable for residents in low income pockets of our community but it will also do so in a way that builds capacity and community."
Riverdale Good Food Connection is a project of the Riverdale Food Working Group which is a community led initiative that is supported by four organizations. The Riverdale Food Working Group facilitates the building of healthy and equitable food systems, addresses food insecurity issues, and engages community residents to participate in activities that will improve access to healthy and fresh food, while raising awareness about food issues, and offering opportunities for skills development, education, and empowerment.
In the summer of 2012, the Riverdale Food Working Group piloted a Good Food Market, in partnership with FoodShare Toronto, located in the South Riverdale community. The Good Food Market model is a not for profit initiative, providing high quality, locally sourced produce in Toronto communities where it is not otherwise readily available to residents. The produce is provided by FoodShare at cost, which allows for affordable prices.
The South Riverdale Good Food Market, which was run by community volunteers, had a successful first season with close to 100 visitors each week and positive community feedback. Many returning customers shared that the market provided a convenient alternative source of fresh food. The market created a vibrant gathering space in the neighbourhood, with efforts made to engage shoppers with cooking demonstrations and children's activities. At the end of each weekly market, unsold produce supported a local food bank and cooking program.
Building on the success of the South Riverdale Good Food Market, in the spring of 2013, the Riverdale Food Working Group will start two new markets in the neighbouring Riverside and Blake/Jones communities. Much like in South Riverdale, these communities have a large number of low income residents, many of whom live in the neighbourhood's government housing buildings. The new Good Food Markets will increase the availability of fresh, affordable food in these areas. These markets will also use unsold produce to support local food banks.
Each new market will require three Good Food Market support workers coming from their direct community. They will be trained in market operations, learning skills that will help them with future employment. In order to assist in connecting all three markets, Riverdale Good Food Connection will also hire a coordinator, providing necessary project oversight.
All three markets will act as local good food hubs. In addition to the produce stand, each market will develop a diverse roster of workshops for seasonal food preserving, cooking, and gardening. These workshops will bring community members together as they help develop new food skills in each neighbourhood. Workshop topics will include fruit and vegetable canning, cooking nutritionally and seasonally, seed starting, container gardening, and bread-making.