If you didn’t catch my sentiment from the title, I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I love to eat. And as a former chef, I also love to cook. From adventurous oyster shooters with quail eggs and salmon roe to healthy quinoa salads to deadly Krispy Kreme burgers, I’m always open to trying new culinary experiences. To me, making food is one of those rare activities where the results can be experienced in a tangible and emotional way. Not to mention that going into the food industry with a unique (and delicious) idea is a great way for entrepreneurs to create viable businesses.
Here at Social Innovation Generation (SiG@MaRS), however, food means more than just bold flavours or satisfying a craving. We believe that good food can help create a culture of healthy eating, reconnect people with their communities, promote equality in ever-gentrifying neighbourhoods, foster engagement in local spaces and serve as the basis for successful ventures.
MaRS has a history of helping social innovation clients working in the food industry. For example:
Today, I’d like to highlight one social enterprise that does all of these things: The Stop Community Food Centre (“The Stop”).
The Stop has two Toronto locations, with affiliate sites of Community Food Centres Canada in Stratford and Perth, Ontario:
The Stop’s philosophy is that access to healthy food is a basic human right and that the ability to access healthy food is influenced by many factors and is not just the result of socio-economic status. The key approach to The Stop’s food program is that participants are encouraged to be involved in the process.
According to The Stop’s website: “When program participants are involved—as front-line volunteers, program advisory committee members, gardeners or cooks—the stigma associated with receiving free food is often diminished or erased. While our food access programming helps confront the issue of hunger, it also creates opportunities for community members to forge their own responses to hunger.”
By taking the genuine interest in and passion for food that exists in the community and funneling that energy into equity, the community food model is aligned with a business model that serves gourmet artisanal items to paying customers and channels revenue back into programs. While the number of social enterprises doesn’t make up the majority of the funding and the main focus is to foster connections between local farmers and sustainable vendors and their customers, an entrepreneurial spirit always compliments the organization’s objectives.
The Stop Community Food Centre effectively creates a win-win situation, inspiring people like me who love to eat while mobilizing private capital for public good.