Community Food Centres are popping up all over Canada. These community hubs bring people together to cook, share, grow and advocate for quality, nourishing food. The concept is simple, but the ways in which they’ve taken shape and served their communities are incredibly diverse.
The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto is a particularly exciting example, as it offers a variety of programs to serve its community’s needs. But what truly makes the Stop unique is how quickly it’s become the poster child for what a community food centre could look like. The Stop has successfully harnessed social media to spread its message, and its highly publicized fundraising campaigns have ensured the organization’s long-term health.
Montreal’s Santropol Roulant provides another example of a food centre that has profoundly shaped its community by improving their access to food. Founded in 1995 by two men in their 20’s, Santropol Roulant has since expanded far beyond its initial meals-on-wheels services. The programs that the centre now provides are intergenerational and cross-cultural, with a keen focus on skill training and on meeting the area’s specialized needs.
Through the support of the Victoria Foundation and CR-FAIR (Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiative Roundtable), organizations within the Capital Regional District are collaborating with residents to begin to explore their own models for community food centres. The shape and location of Victoria’s own community food centres are still in the works, but there are a few key aspects that will definitely be present, including community collaboration to provide open kitchens, public garden space, food skills and meal programs, and cooperative buying programs all under one roof. The current work to collaborate to establish such a center is underway with the work of three churches, two community associations and partner agencies in the Shelbourne Corridor and talks are underway for developing a network of hubs in other neighborhoods across the region.
Throughout the country, food centres have created strong, vibrant communities using food as a key building tool. The time has come to put Victoria on the map as the latest city in Canada to have its own version of community food centres.
Aaren Topley is a University of Victoria student in the facility of Exercise Science, Physical Health and Education where he does Food Literacy research and he is on the steering committee for CR-FAIR.