West End Food Co-op Tour

Practicum studWEFC_Logoents working with the TFPC were invited to tour the West End Food Co-op (WEFC), a cooperatively run grocery store located in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto.  The WEFC consists of a group of producers, eaters, workers, and community partners who work to ensure Parkdale residents have physical and financial access to healthy and culturally appropriate food.  The WEFC works closely with the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) and the Parkdale Community Health Centre (PCHC) to address food insecurity in the local community.

How it began

The WEFC began as the Sorauren Park Farmer’s Market in 2008.  The market continues today and features a variety of local, organic food and farming products.  In 2010 the WEFC added a community cannery program designed to build on and increase the food skills of local residents and to promote environmental sustainability.

The WEFC used the farmer’s market and cannery to engage the community and harness support for a food store, which opened in the fall of 2012.  Today, the WEFC has over 5000 members and continues to grow.

How it works

The WEFC usWEFC_FoodStorees a multi-stakeholder model to facilitate discussion and consensus amongst all members.  Producers, eaters, and workers are each represented by committees that work together to make decisions about the co-op’s day-to-day operations.  A lifetime membership costs $5.

The WEFC offers the Co-op Credit program to ensure it is financially accessible to all community residents.  Members enrolled in the program work a few hours each week at a livable rate of $18 per hour.  Credit earned is then applied against purchases made at the food store.  The program is supported through various fundraising efforts.

 

A community kitchen operates out of the food store and employs three people full-time.  Food prepared in the community kitchen is sold both at the food store and at the Sorauren Park Farmer’s Market.  The kitchen also offers catering services and the space is used to run workshops and programs open to residents and community agencies.

The future

The WEFC is a fixture in Parkdale’s community and is looking at ways to expand its reach and presence.  It is currently developing a program where a cyclist delivers grocery orders placed online by members.