Imagine a world where the accessibility of healthy food isn’t an issue, isn’t a barrier to living life to the fullest. Imagine a world where you could explore all the foodscapes you want without worrying about how, and how much it would cost, to get to those destinations. Imagine equal opportunities to food. It’s hard to envision, isn’t it? We all come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and situations that either allow or inhibit our pathways to food exploration, and I don’t just mean exploration by way of eating great food, I mean seeing it, hearing about it, learning about it, and being exposed to it. Not only is it important to theorize and critique our city’s food channels, but it’s equally important to find ways of improving these networks and to approach it from different angles. It means pinpointing a problem, a missing link, or an oversight, and then coming up with ways to promote change for the better.
The Lunctime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation on Spadina and in the Annex have started something wonderful because accessibility and exposure are both at the heart of the conceptual and theoretical premise behind it. The Centre for Social Innovation Food Constellation began piloting this mini market at both CSI locations in October, and the plan was to host markets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm for at least a month to determine its level of success. Success at what exactly, though? Answer: bringing healthy, local food to office buildings and institutions around the city that may not have the access or connections to engage in food culture and simaltaneously widening the consumer base for local farmers and food producers around the city and province.
I’m fortunate enough to have Facebook and Twitter accounts that allow me to communicate and build relationships with businesses and other food institutions around the city in this fashion, but not everyone cares to be a part of those communities, and not everyone has the same access to technology, transportation, and infrastructure. The whole point of the Lunctime Office Markets is to develop reciprocal relationships between producer and consumer that otherwise may not have been created, and to give people options. These mini markets do so much. They 1) offer delicious, healthy food to either eat right then and there or to take home, 2) present food options outside of the large chain corporation model that isn’t always inclusive, 3) break up the monotony present in office buildings and institutions that lack food pathways, 4) strive to bring the public food sector closer to the private one, and 5) grant people with the opportunity to learn more about local food businesses, producers, and entrpreneurs.
Several particular local producers and businesses that have really shined at the CSI markets since they started back in October include are ChocoSol Traders, Earth & City, Monforte Dairy, and Nice Buns Toronto. I was treated to another gorgeous spread of food, with everything from heirloom peppers and vegetables to cheese to lamb barley soup to cocoa sourdough buns! Cassandra and Lisa’s Earth & City brings a mouthwatering buffet of mostly raw vegan food to every market they participate in and they change things up all the time so that there’s always new and different items to try. Their food is fresh, organic, seasonal, and always vegan, and their menu reflects this with different vegetables and fruits used in different dishes depending on their seasonal peaks.
There were mountains of spring roll wraps just like my last time, along with huuuge veggie tacos made with collard greens wrapped around sunflower sprouts, tomatoes, dried cumin and chili, fresh corn, some sea salt, lemon juice, and cilantro. They had their famous flatbread sandwiches made from flax, sunflower seeds, and onions, and served open-faced with tomatoes, sunflower sprouts, raw almonds, basil and oregano, among other ingredients, as well as vegan sushi! The platter of vegan sushi was beeeautiful (it looked like a gorgeous painting) and because I was so in awe with its prettiness, I forgot to take down the list of ingredients. I’m working on it, so for the time being, admire the photos!
Earth & City always brings an offering of sweets along with their savoury foods and this time, we were treated to their vanilla and chocolate coconut macaroons made with coconut flakes, organic coconut butter, organic raw agave and cacao powder from ChocoSol, vanillia extract, raw almond flour, and sea salt, their frosted brownies, and their choco-peanut butter thumbprints! I took away a cocoa sour dough bun from Sara’s Nice Buns and one of Earth & City’s vanilla coconut macaroons to enjoy on the subway. I ate it in two bites and it was crunchy and creamy and all sorts of delicious. I bought the bun for my mum and she shared some with my brother and they both thoroughly enjoyed and were pleasantly surprised when I told them there was cocoa in it! I love that the menus are always evolving and I love that all the ingredients are listed under each Earth & City dish and item.
I love this market with a passion and judging by the crowds, I’m not the only one. The market has exceeded its 4-week pilot period and I’m hoping so much that the concept and program will continue to grow and spread throughout the city. There’s so much wonderful food to enjoy and discover among good company and little by little, these initiatives will hopefully spur positive change when it comes to our access to healthy food.
Source of information: The Skinny on Maplekeys Lunchtime Office Markets
The Lunctime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex and on Spadina take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively from 11:30am-1pm. The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox. They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.