The First Good Food Box is Packed

FoodShare team standing outside infront of a Field to Table truck.

1990 to 1994 - The First Good Food Box is Packed

Context

  • The Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) was formed in 1990 providing a municipal platform for food system organizations such as FoodShare. With its coordinator, Rod MacRae, the TFPC began to develop discussion papers emphasizing systematic and capacity-building approaches to food issues, as opposed to charity based responses.
  • In 1991, Toronto City Councilor Jack Layton, his executive assistant Dan Leckie, Metro Councillor Dale Martin, his executive assistant Debbie Field, School Trustee’s Olivia Chow and Pam McConnell, and community groups like FoodShare created the Coalition for Student Nutrition to address the fact that teachers were reporting inner city students coming to school hungry. Fiona Knight, a FoodShare community outreach worker, argued against a targeted program for students from low-income families and was in favour of a universal program for all students, cost shared by parents, governments and the community.  Fiona’s and FoodShare’s recommendations were adopted, by the Coalition for Student Nutrition, creating the model for school food programs across Canada.
  • In 1993, City of Toronto community services faced 12% cuts of total program budgets, meaning a loss of the equivalent of 125 full time jobs. With the leadership of Debbie Field, FoodShare and social service advocates demonstrated that taxpayers would only need to pay an extra 86 cents a month to sustain the threatened community services program.  This demonstration was not successful, and the cuts were made.

Directions

  • Debbie Field became FoodShare’s Executive Director in 1992. She approached the problem of hunger holistically from a food systems perspective and the organization began moving towards universally accessible programs focused on self-determination and community capacity building to take action according to their own needs. Influenced by the student nutrition experience, in which targeted programs often backfired as low-income students did not want to self identify as “poor”, FoodShare advocated for universal programs to reduce stigma associated with participation.
  • FoodShare had always valued and nurtured partnerships – with civil society, government and academic organizations — to develop and implement solutions to food and poverty issues. In this next period, the numbers of partnerships and coalitions that FoodShare worked in grew.
  • Mary-Lou Morgan and Ursula Lipski ’s developed the Field To Table Travelling Food Truck   and brought forward a change to go from naming clients’ to ‘customers’. This transformed the dynamics of FoodShare’s relationship with program participants, as the food distributed on the truck was bought by community members at reduced subsidized prices, but was not free.

Milestones

  • In 1991, FoodShare hosted training on Community Kitchens in partnership with Toronto Public Health. The Community Kitchens project brought people together to learn from each other, procure food and cook together in bulk and share meals, using successful models from Peru, and building on first Executive Director Donna Macdonald’s work with the Regent park Sole Support Mothers.
  • In 1991, FoodShare partnered with North York Harvest and Stop 103 to establish a community revolving loan fund. The fund was to provide small loans to help people start their own small businesses.
  • In 1991, consultants Mary-Lou Morgan (one of the founders of the Big Carrot with experience in produce retailing) Ursula Lipski (former FoodShare staff member and community nutritionist), prepared a report for  the Toronto Food Policy Council on a new project, the Field to Table Travelling Food Truck. Its goals were to increase access to fresh produce for the food insecure living in underserved areas while guaranteeing the sales of surplus foods from farmers and decreasing food waste. The program, was influenced by Dr. Rod MacRae, (Toronto Food Policy Council first Coordinator) who visited innovative subsidized food programs in Sao Paolo Brazil (Sacalao Markets) that provided high quality fresh produce at below retail costs to low-income neighbourhoods.
  • In 1992, new FoodShare Executive Director Debbie Field encouraged the FoodShare Board to invite Mary Lou Morgan and Ursula Lipski to set up their pilot Field to Table Travelling Food Truck inside FoodShare. FoodShare thus created one of Canada’s first produce social enterprises, a non-profit business operated within a charity and also began the FoodShare tradition of incubating new projects inside FoodShare.
  • By 1994, the initiative metamorphasized into the Good Food Box. The program purchased directly from farmers at the Ontario Food Terminal thus reducing the need for intermediaries and associated mark ups, and provided healthy produce at a reduced cost directly to consumers.  The program did not require means testing, thus removing potential stigma. The first 40 Good Food Boxes were packed in February of 1994.

ASSETS

Annual Revenues Good Food Program Sales
1990 $315,000
1991 $499,000
1992 $850,000 $51,987
1993 $877,000 $117,028
1994 $810,000 $197,792

 

Number of Staff

Between 1990-1994, the number of staff grew from 6 to 11.

Location

Until 1992, FoodShare, Second Harvest and Low Income Families shared an office at 12 Shuter Street. In 1992 FoodShare moved to 238 Queen Street East. Both offices were leased from the City of Toronto for a below market rent of $1/a year. 

References

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