Shopping for groceries is a balancing act for Parkdale resident Corrin Adams.
A single mother dependent on social assistance, she has roughly $200 a month, after rent, to cover food, clothing and other expenses. Bartering and growing her own food during the summer months helps a bit, but getting by is not easy for Adams, who says she and her daughter have been living “hand-to-mouth” for the past four years.
“I take care of us through what we eat,” she says, “and if we’re not eating well, it’s so obvious that I’ll do whatever it takes to make eating local organic fresh foods my highest priority no matter where I am, especially for my daughter.”
Parkdale has a large number of low-income residents, and most opt for quantity over quality, says Susanna Redekop, marketing and community engagement co-ordinator of the West-End Food Co-op.
That’s why the co-op is hoping its new Food Hub, set to open in the neighbourhood this fall, will offer another option to people like Adams, who value nutrition but are constrained by their budget.
Equal parts grocery store and community kitchen, the Food Hub will sell takeout food and host community workshops. The community-run and -funded store will provide assistance to low-income residents with various programs while providing them with access to quality produce. The co-op credits program will offer patrons store credit in return for volunteer work.
The idea of a co-operative is not new. But Redekop notes she has seen a surge recently.
“One of the reasons I think the co-op model is so empowering is that the people who are the members of the co-op really run the co-op,” she says.
Adams is one of the 600 members already on board. The stakeholders all have a say in the operation. She says apart from its being a good source of produce and social programs, the community aspect of the co-op also draws her in.
“I think it’s just part of a bigger movement than just having a place to buy food,” she says. “It brings together community in a way that food should. It’s just so much more than what we put in our mouths. There’s this whole social culture around food, and then it gets people in touch and involved at a whole other level.”