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Reflecting on Summer at The Stop

The summer is always a busy season at The Stop. Our community gardens are in full bloom, our popular Farmers’ Market heads outdoors, and our kitchens and meal programs fill up with families whose children are off school for the summer.

Now that the weather’s starting to cool, we’ve taken stock of all that our community has accomplished together over the past few months.

Here are a few summer highlights from our Earlscourt Garden, Farmers’ Market, and Food Bank programs.

People of all ages, abilities and backgrounds come to The Stop’s community gardens to build skills, share knowledge, grow food for themselves, and give back to their communities.

Earlscourt, our largest community garden, has been thriving thanks to the attention and care of our incredible volunteers this summer.

Their harvest included kale, chard, komatsuna, pac choi, rapini, bitter melon, cucumber, luffa, pumpkins, summer squash, radishes, turnips, beans, edamame, tomatoes, peas, keels, onion, cabbage, corn, okra, eight types of hot peppers, and countless herbs and flowers!

54

drop-in garden sessions.

59

volunteer gardeners.

600 / 402

pounds of produce given to volunteers / donated to The Stop’s food programs.

This summer, the Earlscourt team also made intentional moves toward regenerative practices such as cover cropping and companion planting. They installed a wildflower patch to make the garden more pollinator-friendly, and they’re planning to add a mushroom patch in the future.

“From planting the seed in the ground to harvesting, you have a real sense of reward for your work. You also have a better idea of where your food comes from, and how it looks…We always say back home that working outside is beneficial to your body. When I’m outside, I can get sunshine. Every week I come to plant and harvest, I feel very happy.”
Earlscourt participant

Featuring local, sustainable, and organic products and great music, The Stop’s Farmers’ Market has become a neighbourhood meeting place, attracting more than 2,000 people each week and providing an important source of income for local farmers.

According to our Market Manager Cookie Roscoe, the market “had a corking peak of season,” with more visitors than the year before, and a record number of vendors wishing to move indoors after the summer. We were able to cater to almost every one of them as they requested, and are further developing a roster of winter-only farms as Ontario producers continue to move toward smaller, more sustainable models of farming.

Unfortunately, all our summer farms reported for market late this year due to the spring’s extreme temperature swings. Our 10 Metre Greens program helped cover the lack of farm-fresh produce, but the longterm impact of the climate crisis on Ontario’s farmers can’t be underestimated. In 2018, beloved vendors the Akiwenzie family were forced to retire, as fish stocks in the Georgian Bay have dwindled so drastically that they could no longer hold out hope they’d be able to maintain equipment. The Akiwenzies have since launched the Bagida’waad Alliance, a nonprofit environmental group composed of local fishers who will study and steward Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

41

Participating farms.

22

Farm-supporting food vendors.

3 million+

Dollars added to the local food economy throughout the year.

“Vending at the market has given us the opportunity to expand our year-round growing capacity, and served as a jumping off point for even more growth over the last few years. It helps with our income, and it allows me to provide better year-round jobs to others.”
Farmers’ Market vendor

The Stop realized long ago that food banks represent a band-aid solution to hunger and poverty. But in the absence of the comprehensive social policies needed to eradicate poverty, we’ve also accepted that food banks are necessary. And so we’ve tasked ourselves with operating the best food bank possible.

We strive to pack our hampers with whole, fresh, seasonal, and local foods. We offer choice to our members, so that they can select the foods that they are most likely to eat. We also try to have culturally appropriate food products available that reflect the diversity of our neighbourhood.

Finally, we have an impressive mount of fresh produce in our hampersparticularly in the summer months, when the Food Bank virtually overflows with fresh organic produce from our Earlscourt garden and local farms.

2,118

Healthy food hampers distributed.

4,239

People served.

17

types of fresh produce on offerincluding locally-sourced summer squash, mushrooms, and okra, and organic baby kale, cucumber, and mixed greens.

7

Food demos organized by our incredible summer placement students, who shared recipes incorporating The Stop’s Foods of the Month.

This summer was especially busy in the Food Bank. 111 new families registered in June—the highest monthly jump we’ve seen since 2013. Due to increased demand, we often ran out of the donated meat and veggie-based proteins before the end of most weeks. We also saw an increase in members without access to kitchens or cooking equipment, and so we’re exploring new sources for healthy food items that don’t require any preparation.

“The Stop has helped me find a voice and put things into perspective. Recently, I received some bad news and was feeling shaken up. Serving in the Food Bank allowed me to regain my bearings. Being able to send people home with fresh produce, and knowing that I am helping them overcome food insecurity, made me regain a positive outlook. It’s experiences like this that keep me coming back.”
Food Bank volunteer

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