Grieving the loss of Too Tall and Mr. Miller
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

By Amanda Montgomery, Community Programs Manager

I am somewhat hesitant to offer up a sad story in my inaugural contribution to The Stop’s enews, but as much as front-line community service work is gratifying, joyful and empowering, it is also frustrating, exhausting and, at times, profoundly sad.

This summer, there were many wonderful moments at the bake oven, in the gardens, at the table. But for many of us, this summer was also terribly tainted by the loss of two long-time community members. Unfortunately, there's nothing unusual or even surprising about participants passing away: many of the people we work with have difficult lives and struggle with chronic illness, and in all likelihood these folks will die prematurely. Such was the case for Gary Baker, 56, and Roman Gavera, 52 ...

Gary and Roman were two men who most people in this city wouldn’t notice or, if they did, would probably try to ignore and then quickly forget. At first glance, neither man was someone with whom you would want to engage. Gary, or “Too Tall” as we called him, had a look in his eyes that suggested unpredictability and a temper to confirm it. He was, obviously, very tall and quite reserved, and he made a lot of people feel uneasy at first. Roman, or “Mr. Miller”, had even fewer visible redeeming qualities: he could be rude, racist even, he smelled awful and he was frequently only partially clothed. He was most people’s image of a typical homeless person.

These are the men that most of world would have seen. But front-line workers are the social equivalent of firefighters: they run towards situations that most people would not only avoid, but actively flee. It is their job to build relationships with people who will probably push them away because they know that people aren’t born with volatile tempers and poor hygiene. In fact, the angrier and smellier a person is, the more desperately they need meaningful relationships in their life. 

So, slowly and cautiously, the Drop-in, Food Bank and Community Advocacy staff got to know Too Tall and Mr. Miller.  We learned that Too Tall was homeless and had lived for a long time in a nearby shelter, struggling against a series of almost impossible challenges. He would have good days and bad days and we learned to decipher his code: “still tall” meant it was a good day, while “mmmm” meant that he needed space. We learned that Mr. Miller had grown up in the Soviet Union and had experienced things in his life about which he would not speak. He had an apartment in the neighbourhood, as well as a number of severe mental and physical health issues that had long gone untreated.

Over months and even years, staff gained the trust of Too Tall and Mr. Miller and started to work with them on their issues.  Too Tall eventually got into supportive housing. We helped him get glasses and ODSP. His good days began to outnumber the bad and he respected the staff and the space enough to know when he needed to leave. Mr. Miller came to trust Nadia, our Community Advocacy Worker. He would ask her why she was doing all this for him, quite clearly feeling that the world had abandoned him. But thanks to her patience and hard work, Mr. Miller started seeing a doctor and receiving ODSP. He started to consistently wear clothes. He went to a dentist appointment and expressed interest in speaking with a counsellor. Important changes took place in their lives.

Tragically, both men died suddenly, just as things in their lives were finally starting to improve. Too Tall spent only two nights in his new apartment. Mr. Miller never made it to the dentist. They both died alone and estranged from their families. Their stories are unspeakably sad.

But not only sad. True, staff were really upset by the news, but their tears showed me that these men were not nameless statistics. They were people who had been cared for and supported, who had found a home of sorts at The Stop, and who are already greatly missed.

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Cooking with world crops!
Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking with world crops: New guidebook & cooking videos show you how to add crops like okra and tomatillos to your go-to list

Local farmers are going global—in their crops, that is. In response to the growing demand for world crops like methi, gai lan and yard-long beans, more and more Ontario farmers are introducing these crops to their rotation, bringing to market an increasingly diverse array of fresh and flavourful produce that hails from around the world.

Here at The Stop, we’ve been discovering all sorts of ways to enjoy these diverse foods, and we're excited to share what we’ve learned. Through our Eat Local, Taste Global program, we’ve produced a series of cooking videos and a companion guidebook that provide growing information and recipes for a host of world crops. Learn how to shop for, grow, and cook these vegetables yourself—you’ll be supporting Ontario farmers who are vital to a thriving local food system while expanding your culinary horizons. To find out more about the project, view the videos, and download a PDF excerpt of the guidebook, visit The Stop’s website.

JOIN US AT THE BOOK LAUNCH:

Join us as we launch the Eat Local, Taste Global guidebook during a homegrown harvest. Sample an array of dishes prepared by The Stop’s Global Roots gardeners using world crops gown on-site, and get to know the world crops themselves at the Eat Local, Taste Global table.

When: Saturday, Aug. 11, 10:00 to 12:30

Where: The Stop’s Farmers’ Market (Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St.)

How much: Entry is free. Books can be purchased for $7.

For media inquiries: Christina Palassio, 416 652 1602 ext. 250 or christina [at] thestop [dot] org. Like our Farmers’ Market Facebook page for updates on the project.

The Eat Local, Taste Global guide book and video series are produced in partnership with the World Crops Project.

Welcome to Rachel Gray, The Stop's new Executive Director
Thursday, July 12, 2012

We're happy to announce that Rachel Gray has been hired as The Stop's new Executive Director.

Rachel has worked in the community services sector for over 20 years, most recently as the Director of National Initiatives at Eva’s Initiatives, where she helped build capacity in the youth-serving sector across the country. She also helped develop and served as the Manager of Housing at Eva's Phoenix, and previously worked at the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and as a special assistant to the Minister of Health for the Province of Ontario. She brings with her a wealth of community engagement, fundraising, and communications experience.

Rachel’s background, paired with her commitment to social justice and food security issues, make her the perfect candidate to lead The Stop into the future. We're thrilled to welcome her to The Stop team.

Our Big Idea
Friday, June 1, 2012

The Grid recently published a Big Ideas issue, filled with ideas big and small on how to make Toronto better. The community food centre was our big idea, one that didn't quite make it into the issue. We think it's a pretty darn good idea, though, so we're posting it here for posterity.

The community food centre is our big idea. It’s a place where people come to cook, share, grow, learn about and advocate for good food. We’ve been developing the model at The Stop for the past 14 years, first in the low-income neighbourhood of Davenport West, and then at our Green Barn location at the Wychwood Barns. We began because we saw that while food banks provide emergency food assistance, they don’t address the problems of chronic hunger, poverty and poor health facing our communities. What makes the community food centre different? It’s in the quality of the solution. The community food centre offers emergency food assistance to those who need it, providing healthy food hampers and nutritious drop-in meals in a dignified and welcoming environment. But that’s just the start. It also offers programs like community kitchens and gardens, food systems education, affordable markets and bake ovens, civic engagement programs, and volunteer opportunities. It’s a place where a very simple thing—good food—builds health, skills, connections and community. We think there should a community food centre in every neighbourhood in Toronto, and in cities across Canada. So we’re working to replicate the model we perfected at The Stop across the country. Stay tuned to www.thestop.org and www.cfccanada.ca for more details.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food visits The Stop
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On May 9, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, attended a civil society meeting held in our Drop-in and convened by Foodshare, the Toronto Food Policy Council, Food Banks Canada and The Stop. During the meeting, one of De Schutter's stops on his country mission to Canada, several of our community members spoke of their lived experience of hunger and poverty. Here's the video of their presentations.

Nick Saul and Olivier De Schutter

 

Community members speak

 

 

Chef Chuck Hughes visits The Stop!
Friday, May 11, 2012

Chuck’s Day Off: The Stop Edition

Chef Chuck Hughes shares his kitchen tips with the kids in our After School Program!

On Monday, May 14, celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes will share his love of local food with the kids in The Stop’s After School Program. The author of new cookbook Garde Manger (HarperCollins Canada) and star of Chuck’s Day Off will spend the afternoon in the kitchen teaching our budding culinary experts, aged 8 to 12, how to prepare his favourite fish recipe. It’s a match made in kitchen heaven: a rock’n’roll chef meets the rockingest and rollingest of kids. Will Chef be able to keep up? What kitchen chaos will ensue? Come out and find out!

When: Monday, May 14, 2012, 4:00 to 5:45 pm

Where: The Stop’s Green Barn (601 Christie St., Barn 4)

Media RSVP: Christina Palassio, 416 652 7867 ext. 250, christina [at] thestop [dot] org

Named the Next Big Celebrity Chef by New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog, Chuck Hughes went head to head with Iron Chef Bobby Flay in a lobster takedown, becoming one of only two Canadian chefs to emerge victorious in the Kitchen Stadium. Chuck is the star of Food Network Canada’s and The Cooking Channel’s (US) Chuck’s Day Off, which has garnered three Canadian Gemini nominations and is now in its third season, airing in over 20 countries. Chuck attended culinary school at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, and is the co-owner of Montreal hot spots Garde Manger and Le Bremner. Chuck lives in Montreal and likes to escape to nearby Magog with his dog Fakey whenever he can.

The Stop's After School Program engages children aged 8 to 12 in fun, hands-on activities that encourage positive attitudes towards healthy eating and teaches them the skills they need to grow, cook and select healthy food. Watch a video about the After School Program. 

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Media contact, The Stop: Christina Palassio, 416 652 7867 ext. 250, christina [at] thestop [dot] org

Media contact, Chuck Hughes:Maylene Loveland, 416 975 9334 ext. 166, maylene [dot] loveland [at] harpercollins [dot] com

The Stop seeks a new Executive Director
Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Stop Community Food Centre is currently seeking a new Executive Director to replace long-time director Nick Saul, who is leaving to head up Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), a new national organization that will drive the development of community food centres across the country.

A hiring committee has been struck to lead the search to fill the Executive Director position, in conjunction with Lennox Millar Executive Search. A job posting will be circulated in early April, with the aim of having a new Executive Director dedicated to continuing The Stop’s critical and innovative community-building work in place by summer 2012. To suggest or recommend candidates for the position of Executive Director, please contact Charles Lennox, in confidence, at clennox [at] lennoxmillar [dot] com.

The Stop plays a crucial role in the low-income community of Davenport West, and is a leading voice in the food security and anti-poverty movements nationwide. Saul leaves the organization in excellent health—over his 14 years at the helm of The Stop, the organization has worked to increase access to healthy food through a unique mix of food skills, food access, and engagement and education programming, which includes a drop-in, food bank, community kitchens and gardens, community advocacy, urban agriculture, food education programs, and markets. At both its 1884 Davenport and Wychwood Barns locations, The Stop is a place where good food builds health and community, maintains dignity, and challenges inequality.

Led by President and CEO Nick Saul and Vice-President of National Programs Kathryn Scharf, Community Food Centres Canada will build on the success of The Stop’s aforementioned model, launching a fundraising campaign this year that will drive the development of 15 centres across Canada by 2017. CFCC’s first partner site—The Table Community Food Centre in Perth, Ontario—launched in January 2012. A second centre is set to open in Stratford this spring. CFCC will support all of its centres in several key organizational areas, including fundraising, capacity-building, and training and evaluation, with the goal of building a nationwide network of responsive and financially stable community food centres.

Click here to view the Executive Director job posting.

For more information on the replication project and the community food centre model, please visit www.learningnetwork.thestop.org.

Seed-saving workbee, Jan. 10
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Stop's seed exchange project held a seed-saving workbee in our greenhouse last week, and Jan Keck took the loveliest photos there.

Davenport Public Meeting
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Davenport Public Meeting

Thursday, January 12th, 2012, 7:00 p.m.

Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood & Community Health Centre (1900 Davenport Rd.)

Are you worried about cuts to childcare, recreation centers, libraries, TTC, shelters and school nutrition programs? Voice your concerns to Ward 17 - Davenport councillor Cesar Palacio 

From January 17th to 19th, City Council will vote on the 2012 budget. We are in danger of losing nearly $90 million in services. This is our last chance to raise our concerns and speak out.

Featuring speakers on childcare, transportation & social housing. TTC provided.

For more info contact Mark Woodnutt at 416-652-7867 ext. 235.

*This event is a lead-up to the city-wide “Final Budget Showdown” Rally and Action happening on Tuesday, January 17th at 5pm at City Hall. For more information on the rally, visit www.torontostopthecuts.com

Fresh Stories, by Dan Yashinsky
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This summer, The Stop received a Community Arts grant from the Toronto Arts Council to hire me as your first-ever Storyteller-in-Residence. I’ve spent July and August visiting programs, telling stories, listening to stories, and slowly planting the seeds for a Stop-wide storytelling project. Along the way, I’ve visited Sabor Latino, Healthy Beginnings, a volunteer recognition dinner, Global Roots, the Greenhouse Volunteers, Seeds and Stories (a gardening and storytelling program at Hillcrest Park). I’ve also been at Good Food Market, and am proud to announce that Mary Milne, a dedicated member of the Stop community, created a beautiful new banner that says “Fresh Stories.” At the market, I’ve also had a chance to spend time with the ESL group, swapping stories (most recently, some pretty spooky ones from Mexico!). One of my greatest pleasures is listening to the many people who are part of The Stop’s amazing urban village. Everyone seems to have a story, a proverb, a song to share. On my very first day, I met Tutu Ebofin, an agronomist from Nigeria, who told me some wonderful Yoruba folktales as she planted African thyme. I’ve since heard stories from El Salvador, the Philippines, China, Jamaica, Mexico, Canada, Pakistan, and more.All of these stories carry their own potent wisdom, and should be shared not only within our own community but with the whole city. I’ll be continuing the residency for the next few months, gathering stories for a collection about generosity (The Stop’s key value, I think), social justice, transformation, and, of course, food. I look forward to hearing your stories! Please dan_yashinsky [at] hotmail [dot] com (email me) if you’d like to be involved in this story-collecting project.

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