I hope that when people think of the Local Community Food Centre they remember a delicious meal that they cooked or ate, or that perfect pod of peas they grew that tasted so much different than the frozen ones. Sharing food is at the root of community building and a catalyst for social change.
But, when you start to investigate anything in depth the strings of economics, politics, and intention begin to reveal themselves. I can’t talk about food, purchase it, or eat it without thinking about health, equity and the environment.
In addition to teaching food related skills like cooking and gardening, we offer a lot of programs that are about finding solutions to poverty, injustice, and food insecurity. You may remember the Do the Math Challenge that ran back in November. Community members chose to live on $5/day for three days, or to purchase a food hamper from the House of Blessing. $5/day is an estimate made by the Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto about how much an individual receiving Ontario Works has left for all their other expenses after paying rent.
The Do the Math Challenge helped people gain a deeper understanding of the inadequacy of Social Assistance rates in Ontario, and what it’s like to have to live on an extremely limited food budget.
Much has happened since the Do the Math Town Hall. We’ve created a social justice club called EPIC – Empowering People in Communities. We meet the first Thursday of the month from 7-9 here at the local and focus on issues such as poverty, stigma, media, environment, and food quality.
On May 30th at 7:00 pm we’ll be hosting a movie night and showing Poor No More, a documentary hosted by Canadian comedian and political satirist Mary Walsh:
Poor No More offers Canada’s working poor a way out. The film takes three Canadians to a world where people do not have to beg, where housing is affordable and university education is free. They ask themselves: if other countries can do this, why don’t we?
Hosted by TV and film star Mary Walsh, Poor No More offers an engaging look at Canadians stuck in low paying jobs with no security and no future. Mary then takes us on a journey to Ireland and Sweden so we can see how these countries have tackled poverty while strengthening their economies. It offers hope to those who have to work two jobs a day and to those who cant find work.
The movie screening will be followed by a discussion hosted by documentary participant Vicki Baier who traveled to Ireland and Norway with Mary to examine and compare their social systems first hand.
We’ve also been working to help members of the low-income community find their voices. Community Action training is a 12-week course that The Local Community Food Centre offers each year beginning in January. We arrange for guest speakers to come and deliver training about topics related to social services, charity, identity politics, and social justice. The training was highly successful this year and nobody wanted it to end. We had all gone from practical strangers to friends with a common purpose.
The official goal of the program is to foster the building of a community that demands an end to poverty, social injustice, and food insecurity and at the end of the course, 90% felt that they had achieved that. I asked what people found most valuable about the training and here are some of the things that they said:
- “That there is a voice for people who feel helpless.”
- “Improved my self-confidence and got my brain out of neutral.”
- “How to access different things that are available to myself and/or other people that I am willing to help.”
- “The whole experience was amazing–acquiring information about our community was helpful. The one on one with people in the community. I achieved a volunteer position with Community Living because of this training.”
While the Local Community Food Centre is best known for serving meals and teaching cooking classes we do a lot to address bigger picture needs and challenge systemic inequality. We come at things from a social justice angle as opposed to a singularly charitable one. It’s important to look at the bigger picture, the structural issues that are creating poverty and marginalization in the first place.
If you would like more information or the opportunity to become involved, contact Elizabeth Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.