Food security is not just about getting enough to eat. Food is a social relation that constitutes a core pillar of our quality of life. Food connects us to our (and others’) culture, to our environment, and to each other.
One of the most ancient and universal food social relations is the marketplace, which has always doubled as a community space for social interaction. In the 21st century, modern supermarkets mimic the aesthetic of the marketplace in an attempt to conjure this sense of community. Those that can afford it seek out local farmers’ markets for similar reasons.
What about the communities in Toronto that can neither afford to shop at upscale grocery stores, nor to support the existence of an entire farmer’s market?
Enter the Good Food Market (GFM). This program, originally developed by FoodShare, provides affordable access to fresh food by helping communities open their own weekly produce market. Anyone can apply, and once they complete the application process, folks running the market can order subsidized, wholesale produce for delivery to sell at cost in their neighborhood. There are 31 active markets operating around the city.
Using the GFMModel atThe Stop
The GFM is an opportunity to build the kind of community space that marketplaces have traditionally provided. Some GFMs host other activities during market hours, like hair-braiding and live music. Here at The Stop’s Good Food Market and Café, our chefs make a wide variety of baked and other prepared goods for sale at the market in addition to local and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Our GFM is an enormously popular program. Between April and June of this year, we had over 1,200 customers, averaging 111 customers per week. That’s a 44% increase from the same period last year (average of 77 customers per week). As food prices have risen, the market has become busier, as we are able to provide affordable alternatives to shopping at the major grocery store chains. By forgoing a price markup, our GFM is often able to sell produce at as little as half of the supermarket price. Between January 2022 and June 2023, sales at the GFM increased over 300%, and attendance continues to grow.
The GFM also connects customers to local Ontario farmers. On average, we source 57% of the GFM produce from Ontario, though this number varies widely with the seasons. In January, the proportion of local produce is closer to 40%, while in September and October (harvest season) that number rises to as much as 80%!
In addition, the GFM is an excellent opportunity for community members to volunteer their time and to connect with others. Recent volunteer feedback unsurprisingly highlighted the importance of opportunities to be sociable after the lockdowns and social distancing protocols brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. One volunteer shared that volunteering and shopping at the market, “brings me much joy. I have met loads of lovely people,” while another said they “loved the interaction with staff, volunteers and students.”
The Stop’s Good Food Market and Café is held every Tuesday at our 1884 Davenport Road location from 12 PM to 3 PM.