June 20, 2023

A look back at Public Market Week 2023

Coming together to celebrate all things public markets

From June 11-17, 2023 FoodShare, in collaboration with market organizations across the city, celebrated all things public markets.

With the International Public Markets Conference taking place in Toronto in 2023, hosted by the Project for Public Spaces, City of Toronto, St. Lawrence Market and Market City TO, it made for the perfect occasion to begin the tradition of setting aside a week each year to honour the important role markets play in our city.

The power of community-led markets

At FoodShare, we were especially excited to celebrate the community-led markets we work with through our market support program. These community-driven markets (previously known as Good Food Markets) offer high-quality, culturally diverse fruits and vegetables at a subsidized cost, in areas where accessing fresh produce might otherwise be difficult.

The markets act as place-making tools to bring residents together, often evolving into informal community hubs with engaging activities and artisanal vendors, encouraging knowledge exchange and intergenerational connection.

FoodShare supports our partner organizations and resident leaders to operate these independent markets by providing subsidized produce from the Ontario Food Terminal (local and imported). We also provide training, tools and resources to the coordinators who manage the operational aspects of the markets.

In 2022 alone, these community-driven markets operated in 46 neighbourhoods across the city, providing over 70,000 people — 10,000 of them seniors — with nearly 350,000 pounds of high-quality, highly subsidized produce.

Each market reflects its community

Each market we collaborate with is unique, whether it’s run by tenants in a senior residence such as at David’s Market at Community Centre 55, or whether it’s held just 200 feet from where the produce is grown like at the Flemo Farm Market, or whether they employ clowns as personal shoppers to bring a smile to your face like at Mabelle Arts. Every market is special in its own way, and serves a need in its community.

Over the course of the week FoodShare’s social media channels were filled with market content from the international conference and market events all around Toronto. It was also a chance to shine a light on two market teams doing amazing work, in Scarborough at Bay Mills Community Market, and Leslieville at the Neighbourhood Food Hub Market.

Market Spotlight on Bay Mills Community Market

As part of our weeklong celebration of all things markets for Public Market Week in Toronto, we’re excited to shine a light on the great stuff happening at Bay Mills Community Market in Scarborough.

This market came together when two members of the community, Miss Mary and Miss Rita, saw the struggles the pandemic was causing in their neighbourhood in terms of food insecurity and a lack of face-to-face connections. Starting as a small community food bank, their initiative has transformed into the flourishing market that it is today.

Sadly, Miss Mary has since passed away, but the team is more motivated than ever to continue to support their community members and make sure that the seed Miss Mary planted never stops growing ?

Taking care of people is a throughline in Miss Rita’s life, having transitioned from a full-time personal support worker to the owner of her own catering business Riri’s Blissful Bites and the engagement facilitator at the market. The team of coordinators made it clear that it’s Miss Rita who makes the market special. Even before the market began she was known as a “resident leader extraordinaire.” And she’s alwaysssss been feeding people. Neighbourhood kids have been known to show up at Miss Rita’s house asking for food on the regular. They know where to find the good stuff!

Many in their area were hesitant to engage with the market at first, aware of stereotyping of people in need of food charity and stigma around support from food banks. But Miss Mary, Miss Rita and their team refused to stand by and let increasing gentrification make anyone feel out of place in their own neighbourhood. The market was the buffer that many needed to reach out and acknowledge that times have been incredibly tough and that they did need a place to get low cost but high quality fruit and vegetables.

The team at Bay Mills Community Market is proud of getting food out to folks with dignity. Whatever they earn, at whatever stage of life, the market has become a space for everyone to feel at home ?


Market Spotlight on Neighbourhood Food Hub

As part of our weeklong celebration of Public Market Week in Toronto we wanted to take a look at the great work the Neighbourhood Food Hub is doing through their market serving folks in and around the Leslieville community.

The FoodShare team recently had the chance to chat with the market’s coordinator Nanor and a stellar team of young folks who volunteer to make a number of local market spaces a success. We met Kate, Amelia, Issac and Sophie, all of whom live and go to school nearby.

“It’s very community-oriented. I really love the way that everyone works together,” Amelia says.

Kate agrees, noting that together the market team and shoppers have “a great dynamic. Everyone’s really friendly and a lot of people show up every week.”

These youth volunteers — many of whom Nanor has known since they were small — unpack, sort and sell at the produce stand, brimming with delicious fruits and vegetables priced anywhere between 18 and 56% lower than retail grocers. Through FoodShare’s partnership with Neighbourhood Food Hub, subsidized fresh produce is delivered to their site each week — a church at the corner of Gerrard and Rhodes Ave that shares the street with a variety of local vendors selling South Asian food, clothing and more. But that’s not all: Nanor and the Neighborhood Community Hub team, in partnership with Applegrove Community Complex and the Leslieville Farmers’ Market have worked hard to turn the market into a one-stop shop for local food.

For Issac, that’s special: “each customer can get to know these small, maybe family-owned businesses. And it’s really sweet because you’re gonna get to know some of them as people and not just as the products they’re selling,” Issac says.

Nanor and the staff team behind the market have been able to welcome vendors weekly selling bread, meat, eggs and ready-to-eat treats. “The produce is definitely the foundation for it all, that’s where we started, but we’re adding building blocks, trying to make it a sustainable market that can just run itself and give everybody in the community the basics of what they need and maybe a little bit more, hopefully.” ?️

Join the week-long market celebration with us every year, as Councillor Shelley Carroll has officially declared the second week of June Public Market Week in Toronto! But let’s not stop there — continue celebrating markets with us throughout the year: follow along on our social media channels (@FoodShareTO on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) and sign up for our e-newsletter to stay up-to-date.