There’s always something bittersweet about a food charity celebrating a big anniversary. Sure there’s all of the progress and hard work that deserves to be honoured, an account of all the people who have been helped. But on the other hand, there’s the fact that said charity still needs to exist at all. That issues such as hunger and food security in our city have not been sufficiently addressed and that individuals and families still need these organizations to help them make ends meet.
FoodShare is one of those organizations that will likely always be with us, because they’re dealing with more than just getting food to people in need. FoodShare is all about education and skills, in teaching people to cook and grow their own food, and in knowing where their food comes from.
This past weekend FoodShare celebrated their 25th anniversary by hosting their annual open house and a ribbon cutting for their new on-site greenhouse. Community Food Program Manager Ravenna Barker explained to the assembled crowd the trials and tribulations – as well as community support – that went into getting the greenhouse built. The greenhouse will be a year-round operation, completely solar-powered, and will allow FoodShare to continue with gardening programs that were once strictly seasonal.
Besides the gardening and urban agriculture program in which FoodShare works with local groups to promote community gardens, the organization runs a variety of programs and services that bring food to people who may not otherwise have access to it.
Most well-known are the Good Food boxes, which deliver fresh produce boxes to community hubs. The Good Food markets feature seasonal local produce plus some imported favourites in neighbourhoods that are under-served by grocery stores or mainstream farmers’ markets. There are now 17 of these markets throughout the city.
FoodShare also offers a Field to Table Schools program that teaches gardening, composting, nutrition and basic cooking skills to kids from JK to Grade 12. The FoodShare kitchen prepares hundreds of meals each day for a range of people from junior high students to staff and volunteers. Parents can also takes courses on making healthy, inexpensive baby food, and the Toronto Partners for Student Nutrition Program provides 125,000 children and youth with healthy nutritious food in their schools each day.
One of FoodShare’s other main roles is to act as a resource hub. Linking up local organizations like garden groups and community kitchens, the organization helps individuals find tools and services that are close to home, as opposed to expecting people to come to them.
More importantly, as Canada’s largest community food security organization, FoodShare’s programs have been replicated across the country. Says Communications Manager Adrienne De Francesco, “we pioneer by illustrating what is possible, creating empowering tools and replicable, scalable solution models to combat universal food problems, then we mentor communities in adapting and growing these solutions.”
In reviewing FoodShare’s Strategic Plan document, I was astounded at what this organization has accomplished. In 2008, FoodShare and its community partners:
- delivered 4,000 good food boxes each month to over 180 neighbourhood drops
- taught hundreds of parents to make healthy, cost-effective baby food on workshops provided in eight different languages
- delivered fresh produce to over 250 schools, parenting and child care centres and agencies on a weekly basis
- produced 350 pounds of fruits and vegetables in their 682 square foot demonstration garden at their offices on Croatia Street (this will rise with the inclusion of the new greenhouse)
- supported the creation of 200 new morning meal programs for students in Toronto’s low-income communities
- supplied 8,320 cups of nutrient dense Power Soups and over 4,000 pounds of produce to dozens of agencies that support the homeless and under-housed in Toronto
- enabled the production of 800 pounds of honey through the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative
- produced 26,000 pounds of compost for the FoodShare garden and community gardens across the city
- plus much more…
FoodShare isn’t a food charity offering handouts – it connects people within their local communities, whether that’s by helping them to find a community garden spot, teaching people basic cooking skills, educating kids about good healthy food, or getting fruits and vegetables to people who are under-served through Good Food Boxes and Markets.
And while in an ideal world, everyone would have enough good, healthy food to eat, as well as the knowledge and skills to prepare it, it’s reassuring to know that there are organizations like FoodShare out there, helping people find ways to access food in a manner that also builds the local communities it serves.
Happy anniversary, FoodShare. Thanks for all of your hard work in bringing good, healthy food to the people of Toronto. Here’s to another 25 successful and fruitful years.