One of the most rewarding things about food exploration is the infinite number of ways we can engage in it. It’s about cooking from the heart, cooking at home, with family, with friends, for survival, passing down cultural traditions, dining out, experimentation, food cultivation, food history, economic and environmental stability and sustainability, and most of all, accessibility. When we immerse ourselves in food culture, we essentially investigate the question, “how does a community feed itself?”
The Stop Community Food Centre is one of Toronto’s culinary cornerstones, offering food programs in an effort to increase accessibility to healthy food. These food programs take into account the very different lifestyles, family structures and situations, incomes, and aspirations of Torontonians, and are tailored to different age groups and levels of culinary experience. Its mission is to build awareness and accessibility to nutritious food and food pathways. It’s about knowing and understanding the different socioeconomic positions people occupy in our societyand finding ways to lessen the burden, to increase the knowledge of food systems, to spark a new-found interest, and to nurture those who take pleasure in cooking and food exploration.
Food programs offered by The Stop include a food bank; an after school cooking and learning workshop for elementary school children; a drop-in program for those who need a healthy meal, food counselling, and access to information and resources around the city; an urban agriculture program that is comprised of several community gardens in and around the community, all of which produce fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for The Stop’s food events, kitchen, and cooking workshops; food and cooking programs for both new parents and seniors; a community cooking program which strives to increase accessibility and awareness of healthy living and eating habits, build cooking and social skills, and to bring people together through food and cooking. Finally, The Stop offers a weekly farmers’ market year-round, every Saturday from 8am-12pm, in conjunction with the Wychwood community and Artscape Wychwood Barns.
The Stop and Wychwood Barns are a fusion of culture and art, bringing together local businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs, and artists (culinary and otherwise) under one common goal and umbrella. We may not all be locavores, but the The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns emphasizes the importance of providing support for local, Ontario growers, producers, farmers, retailers, and independent food businesses who strive to grow, create, and prepare organic, sustainable, healthy food. The market fully endorses market vendors that provide food that is gluten-free, vegan, raw, dairy, meat-centric, and organic, so long as the food has been cultivated through ethical and sustainable practices. Market vendors have information plaques attached to their booths informing market goers of the business’ history, mission, goals, and information.
The mission behind The Stop Farmers’ Market isn’t to necessarily “convert” our community into becoming a locavore one or to “push” the locavore doctrine onto people. We know the benefits of using seasonal ingredients and buying local, but we also know that many of us don’t wish to subscribe to these principles and/or face limitations, so we need ways to negotiate through the various foodpaths that are made available to us. And one of these ways is through a community market like this one.
Its goal is to show support for local businesses while at the same time building awareness in and around Toronto (and beyond!) concerning the food options we have in our cities and province. The concept of accessibility is based upon the notion of choice. Without choices and without options, accessibility cannot exist so it is through accessibility that we can begin to make informed purchasing decisions and healthy lifestyle choices.
The Stop Community Food Centre and Artscape Wychwood Barns provides our city with so many opportunties to engage with food and I’m so looking forward to being more involved in this community and taking advantage of the many food programs that are offered. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first two parts of the Wychwood farmers’ market series because the third and last will be featuring the raw and vegan delights of Earth & City tomorrow!
The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm. The market is currently being held indoors for the winter. The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St. http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market