The Harmony Community Food Centre is Launched!
The seed was planted and we saw the first blossoms of Harmony Community Food Centre emerge. A partner site of Community Food Centres (CFC) Canada, the program’s focus is on addressing food insecurity in the neighbourhoods surrounding 2 Gower St. The CFC is designed to be a place to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food for all.
September 1 was the official launch as the thirteenth community food centre partner site in Canada. We are proud to be part of this national movement which works toward equitable, dignified access to good food for all. Thank you to our fearless partners at Community Food Centres Canada, all local partners, funders and the community of East York for welcoming us. Special thanks to MP Julie Dabrusin, MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the P. & L. Odette Charitable Foundation and Community Food Centres Canada for celebrating with us.
We’re making connections
Over the past year, we conducted a community consultation to get to know our neighbourhoods and fellow advocates in the O’Connor-Parkview, Taylor-Massey and Oakridge areas. We talked to residents, local schools, parents, seniors, librarians, youth workers, settlement workers, service providers, health providers, church leaders and more.
From our conversations, we developed a framework for program design: a focus on low-income and marginalized communities; addressing barriers to access; inviting participants and those with lived experience to co-design; using a team approach to enable cross-organizational resources; and building partnership with community members and organizations for greater impact. We began the work of building relationships and trust within the community and, at SRCHC, we began the work of building creative collaborations across the organization.
Inviting the community into our kitchen
A beautiful thing about the new Harmony Community Food Centre is that the location at 2 Gower St. opened its doors to the community beyond the existing seniors programs. We welcomed neighbours of all ages into our space and kitchen through nutrition and food skill workshops, community kitchens, kids’ cooking programs, garden design and special events. Our kitchen became a new hub for knowledge exchange, social connection and delicious food to share!
Food access during a pandemic and beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic intensified existing gaps in our system and vulnerable populations found themselves in greater distress and uncertainty around food access. We sprang into immediate action. With emergency funding from Community Food Centres Canada and United Way, we were able to quickly expand our existing food security work and redeploy staff to plan and distribute grocery gift cards, home delivered meals, takeaway meals and produce boxes. Those we served were able to access supports in a dignified manner with few barriers.
The pandemic food access response could not have happened without strong partnerships with funders, local businesses and local networks. The challenges facing priority populations will not disappear, and we are keeping our sleeves rolled up. We will continue to serve and amplify the voices of the marginalized until all are safely housed, economically secure, socially empowered, healthy, and can nourish themselves with joy and abundance. And this feedback tells us that the work is vitally important.
“I found the program and support very helpful due to being non-status and health issues that make it very difficult to work. I have no income and would like online training to get regular work. The gift cards helped manage what I needed for my baby and myself.” – Rose (34 years old, new single mother, non-status, immunocompromised)
“I had something to eat guaranteed, at least one hot meal a day. Bottom line this thing helped me a lot it put me over the fence (of happiness). Before if I did not have food I did not know if I could make it.” – Theo (62 years old, lives alone, on ODSP, living with a disability).