Cultivating community through food

How Good Food Markets bring neighbours together

Fresh produce, sweet treats, neighbours catching up, dogs barking and children laughing: these are all things you can expect at a Good Food Market.

Led by the community, for the community, Good Food Markets are a place for people to purchase subsidized, culturally appropriate food in their neighbourhood. 

“We do this every Tuesday for two and a half hours, and bring some local produce to the community,” says Harmony Community Food Centre’s Kitchen Facilitator and Kitchen Skills Educator, Marishka Radwanski, “and some that’s not local, but lots of nice, affordable produce.” Marishka is part of the team at the Harmony Good Food Market in East York featured in a video tour released by FoodShare this week.

While you might expect a market to focus solely on local, seasonal fruits and vegetables, Good Food Markets provide a mix of both local and imported produce. This is to ensure that food is available all year, that prices stay as low as possible and so that shoppers can access foods that are culturally relevant to their needs—foods they are used to cooking with. It’s a compromise between environmentally- and socially-conscious food.

“Every single week I am coming,” says Esther Rajanayagam, a market regular. “I didn’t miss one,” she says of the market which ran from early summer through October during its first year of operations in 2020. 

So where can you find a Good Food Market? The community is as involved in deciding where the markets are located as selecting what’s at the market. Interest in developing a Good Food Market must be driven by the community.

“In this community here there are not a lot of options for groceries and fresh produce,” explains Kathleen Ko, one of the market organizers. In some cases markets are coordinated by volunteer residents, in others its staff at a neighborhood food hub like Harmony, a part of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, who make the weekly market happen. “We did a consultation and we heard a lot of people saying that you know, it’s hard for them to get to grocery stores that are further away; you know, price point might be an issue. So there definitely was a need for an affordable produce market.”

Once a location is identified, FoodShare supports the community organizers by sourcing and delivering fresh produce, as well as offering training and resources to coordinators who manage the operational aspects of the market.

Good Food Markets are a unique reflection of each vibrant community they are a part of, acting as a place-making tool, bringing residents together and often evolving into important community hubs.

“We’ve come every week since it started, and we get access to fresh fruit that I wouldn’t normally buy,” says Andrea Ng, a market regular pushing her little one in a weather-proofed stroller, her smile undimmed by the rain. Gesturing to the team behind the tables piled high with produce she says, “I see these lovely people every week and it’s been the highlight of my summer!”

Whether it’s fruits, veggies or human connection, there’s something for everyone at the market. For Xavier Sankar-Vanderherberg who stopped by after school with his brother Emanuel and mom Stacy, there’s something special to look forward to: “I like the cookies.”

WATCH: Cruise the Harmony Good Food Market virtually below.

This is the second in a series of four videos that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at FoodShare’s programming. Get a 360 degree view of the FoodShare warehouse here and stay tuned for more! 

Do you live somewhere that could benefit from a Good Food Market (GFM)? Explore FoodShare’s resources and map of existing GFMs, and contact us to discuss the potential for hosting a GFM in your community. 

To learn more about community-led approaches to addressing food insecurity, listen in on this discussion featuring FoodShare’s Good Food Market Coordinator Tara Ramkhelawan and Scarborough Co-Op Market’s Maria Londoño Forero.