Using Food to Better the World

The West End Food Co-op in Toronto is looking to incorporate food production and consumption into bettering their local neighbourhood.

The West End Food Co-op has 500 members so far, including 20 farmers. Dinner expects another 1,500 to sign up by the end of next year. (Membership costs only $5.) Until their first general meeting, there won’t be an operating plan. But, they have some basic ideas of how it will work:

• The kitchen will be used as a mini processing plant for farmers’ excess product, so vegetable farmers can drop off extra bushels of tomatoes and the co-op cooks will stew them into pasta sauce, label them and sell them in the store, for example.

Twice a week, the kitchen will be used for community programming, teaching Parkdale groups how to cook and preserve. In exchange for a break in the rent, the Community Health Centre upstairs expects to hold workshops here.

The prices in the co-op will be more expensive than No Frills, to ensure the farmers make enough to remain on the farm. Since Parkdale is a poorer part of town, the co-op will distribute “co-op bucks” to its community partners, like the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre. The Parkdale Community Health Centre plans to fundraise to buy “co-op bucks” for its clients.

The members will decide what to do with any profit the co-op makes, whether to invest in a new freezer or pay for another community program.

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