Their mission is simple. “Everything that we do is motivated by our commitment to increase access to healthy food,” explains Rachel Gray, Executive Director at The Stop Community Food Centre. The Stop is a byword for better living, and the engaged group at this community food centre is dedicated to educating and connecting with Torontonians on everything from honing your green thumb to social equality. With an admirable drive, they are creating a healthier and happier Toronto in the process.
Over the last 40 years, The Stop has grown into an incomparable Toronto resource. It all began with Campbell A. Russell at the Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields. Rachel explains that Campbell noticed a need for a “social connection” among community members. He believed that coming together and supporting one another was the best way to overcome the unemployment, housing, and access to healthy food issues that were affecting so many. Russell’s beliefs led to the formation of one of the earliest food banks in the country and this notion of connecting with people is still an integral part of The Stop’s philosophy.
Today, The Stop – located on Davenport in Toronto’s west end – features a wide range of projects including Farmer’s Markets (which support local growers), Community Greenhouses (which provide produce for the food centre as well as to the community growers), and group cooking classes (which introduce attendees to new, healthy foods and the ways that they can be prepared and eaten). All of the programs at The Stop emphasize “a focus on food skill, education, and access to healthy food.” The Stop also offers after-school programs that teach kids the value of a healthy lifestyle while showing them how to grow and prepare their own food. They host adult cooking groups where people from all walks of life can come to learn and get the healthy food options to which they might not otherwise have access. Torontonians of all ages and backgrounds come to The Stop to learn, teach, and get involved in making themselves and our community healthier and happier.
Every interaction at The Stop begins with a conversation. They have an informed staff that is committed to “community building” and to finding the right solution to every unique problem while treating everyone as equals. “Welcoming people with dignity” is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at The Stop. They listen. They understand. Rachel insists that “there is no reason for anyone in this city or in this country to go hungry.”
The Stop Community Food Centre is committed to making Canada a country where everyone has access to healthy food, in the hopes of making a better nation for us all. It may seem like an ambitious goal, but all it takes is a seed and some care. Then, we watch it grow. Toronto, where there is food, there is hope.
WORDS: TIM LUTHER
PHOTOS: ISAAC ZELUNKA
PICTURED HERE: WENDY BUNSTON, SCOTT MACNEIL
GILLIAN BOGDEN, MARIUS SARUNAS & OMAR LIENDO