At Community Food Centres Canada, we believe good food is vital to individual, community, and social change.
People often arrive at our Community Food Centres struggling with hunger, loneliness, unstable housing, or poor mental health. We greet them with a delicious meal served at a shared table in a welcoming and dignified space. Then we engage them in food skills and community engagement programs that aim to create improved health, confidence, hope, and a sense of belonging.
This is a journey that takes place at Community Food Centres across the country every day, one that is transforming people’s lives and the neighbourhoods they live in. We know this because we are committed to measuring the impact of our programs.
What are our goals? Better access to healthy food, better skills, better physical and mental health, greater civic engagement, and better public policy. This final piece is key: we know the greatest barrier to good health and belonging is income. We have to continue to call for more inclusive policies and a more equal society where everyone has a seat at the table. We all benefit when we take care of each other.
This report presents results from four established Community Food Centres: The Local in Stratford, The Stop and the Regent Park Community Food Centre in Toronto, and The Table in Perth, ON. A shared evaluation framework allows us to track local progress as well as impact across centres.
Next year we’ll add results from the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre in Winnipeg and the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre in Nova Scotia. New centres in Calgary and Hamilton will join soon after. And our newly launched Good Food Grants program will support some of the 75 Good Food Organizations we work with across Canada to strengthen their community food programs and deepen our collective efforts. Momentum is building around a new approach to food and health in low-income communities.
A group of remarkable contributors and allies have been there at every turn; we sincerely thank you for your staunch support. If you’re meeting us for the first time here, please consider joining our growing community by making a donation, visiting our website or getting involved in our work. We look forward to working with you to shape a stronger, more equitable, and healthier Canada.
This report provides a snapshot of 2014 program data from four partner Community Food Centres, as well as the results from our collective 2014 Annual Program Survey. The Annual Program Survey was conducted as an in-person interview with 348 adult participants from across all programs at The Table, The Local, The Stop and Regent Park Community Food Centres.
The number of interviews conducted and program statistics vary by site according to how long each Community Food Centre has been operating, how many programs they run, and the size of the community. For detailed information on each centre’s individual statistics and survey results, please see the site-specific 2014 Annual Impact Summary Reports posted on our website:
Our society is faced with complex, interrelated issues: poverty, food insecurity, poor physical and mental health, and a lack of social connection and civic engagement. These are big problems that require progressive, large-scale public policy solutions, among them affordable housing, higher minimum wages, basic income, a national school nutrition program, and coordinated investment in healthy food.
While we press for improved public policies, what can we do to ensure people on low incomes are living the healthiest, most connected lives possible, and that they have opportunities to get involved in pushing for change?
The answer isn’t as complicated as you think.
At Community Food Centres Canada, we work with partners to build vibrant spaces that not only increase access to healthy food in low income communities, but also nurture skills and connect people to education and civic engagement opportunities. With these centres, we are building the future we want to see: inclusive, healthy and fair.
We also support 75 Good Food Organizations across the country to offer food programs focused on dignified space and service, healthy food, learning, and community empowerment. Along with Community Food Centres, these initiatives are reaching tens of thousands of people every year.
This Shared Impact Report uses stories, photos, and evaluation results from four Community Food Centres to paint a picture of the impact these initiatives are having in their communities, and describes how we are working with the broader food sector to galvanize change.
Read on for these good food stories.
I’m gaining knowledge that I never had before, with regards to different kinds of healthy foods.— participant at The Stop Community Food Centre
I feel by eating healthy foods I feel so much better mentally and physically.— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
I really like being a part of an initiative that involves food. Everyone is treated like a part of the community. It’s more than charity.— participant at The Table Community Food Centre
The most valuable thing about being involved here is being with other people and knowing I’m not alone. The support I receive here is also very important to me.— participant at The Stop Community Food Centre
It’s … a sense of belonging and a form of social support ... This sets an example for other communities and neighbourhoods.— participant at The Regent Park Community Food Centre
For most people, the journey to a Community Food Centre begins because of an immediate food need. Food access programs like nutritious community meals, healthy hampers, and affordable produce markets strive to meet the needs of people struggling with food insecurity in a welcoming and respectful environment that promotes healthy eating and encourages connection and mutual support. By focusing on sourcing local, seasonal ingredients wherever possible, these programs also support the local food economy and build an appetite for new foods.
And it doesn’t end there. During these programs, people can also visit on-site peer advocacy offices staffed by trained community members who can help them access housing, legal, income, and other supports; join a cooking group or social justice club; enroll their kids in a food-focused after-school program; or start volunteering in the garden. Quickly, a meal or market turns into a pathway to engagement and empowerment.
healthy meals served during 1,053 meal sessions
affordable produce market sessions hosted
of people surveyed identify their Community Food Centre as an important source of healthy food
of people say community meals have helped them eat more fruits and vegetables
It’s always a good meal, it’s healthy. For some people here it’s the only good meal they’ll have this week. I’m glad this place is here.— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
The healthier the people in need are being fed, it has a positive impact on physical health.— participant at The Regent Park Community Food Centre
A lot of times, I sink into a depression and if I’m alone I forget to cook. Coming here, I have more family-style dinners and I have comfort because of it.— participant at The Table Community Food Centre
As a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of the impact our food choices have on how we feel and on our health. At the same time, we are faced with the fact that we have lost many of the basic food skills that form the foundation of healthy eating. The problem becomes worse for people living on incomes that are too low to allow them to choose the foods they know are best for themselves and their families, afford to enroll in a cooking class, or even purchase basic supplies.
Skill-building programs like community kitchens and gardens and after-school programs promote healthy eating by teaching practical food skills and nutrition knowledge that help people navigate the dozens of food choices they face every day. By creating a fun and supportive environment around food, we aim to promote learning and leadership among participants, and empower people to choose, plan, and cook healthy affordable meals within the limits of their circumstances.
community kitchen sessions taught basic cooking and food preparation skills and nutrition information
community garden sessions created fertile ground for learning new skills and yielded thousands of pounds of produce that were shared between participants and programs
children participated in education programs
of people surveyed report making healthy changes to their diets, including 58.8% who have begun eating more fruits and vegetables
of community cooking participants surveyed report having increased confidence in the kitchen
[I learned] the importance of eating whole foods, compared to eating fast, processed foods all the time. It doesn’t make me feel good when I eat unhealthy foods now.— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
I love cooking and here I try new things — and it’s not overwhelming financially.— participant at The Table Community Food Centre
Gardening is really important. It’s an exercise for everything. Not just body exercise, but also for the mind.— participant at The Regent Park Community Food Centre
[I learned] how to use green vegetables in food. Before I didn’t use a lot in my home cooking. Here I learn lots about those foods.— participant at The Stop Community Food Centre
Gord and his wife Tanya grew up in food-insecure households. "I didn't eat vegetables as a kid," says Gord. "I didn't eat much of anything."
Though both Gord and Tanya work, making ends meet is tough: they are key providers to their immediate and extended family, and help Tanya's sister and her son, who has special needs. The financial pressure on them is high. For years now, quick, cheap, and accessible fast foods, soda, and processed snacks have been the foundation of their daily meals.
Joining The Local Community Food Centre’s 12-week FoodFit program has been a big change for them. Their a-ha moment came in the seventh week, when they learned how much sugar goes into the most common convenience food items. That’s when the alarm bells really went off.
Since they joined FoodFit, Gord has lost weight and his blood pressure readings have come down. Both he and Tanya are eating less sugar and are cooking more at home. Gord is even jogging 3.5 km every day to pick Tanya up at work.
“We have a new awareness that eating well changes the way you can be active. I’ve never felt this good in my life.”
Many of the programs offered at Community Food Centres are developed to respond to community needs. Community Food Centres Canada also invests in the development of innovative, out-of-the-box programs and resources with proven results that can be implemented by all Community Food Centres, as well as the growing number of Good Food Organizations across the country.
FoodFit is one of those programs. The fun and social 12-week program uses current research on healthy eating and what motivates behaviour change to support people living on low incomes to make lasting improvements to their health. The program combines hands-on cooking sessions with take-home recipes, easy-to-understand nutrition information, group exercise, shared meals, self-directed individual and group goal-setting, and reflection and feedback loops that monitor and reinforce individual and group progress. The goal of the program is to give participants simple, useful tools that can support them to maximize the control they can take over their health within the limits of their circumstances.
FoodFit was developed by Community Food Centres Canada in collaboration with staff at The Local Community Food Centre, and was piloted at both The Table and The Local. Extensive evaluation showed strong results in health and wellbeing impacts, leading to the launch of a grants stream and training workshops that will support more Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations to offer the program.
FoodFit sessions offered
more daily steps being taken on average by participants
of participants say they're cooking more healthy meals at home
of participants now have fitness levels that are above average or greater than when they started
of participants had maintained healthy eating habits and increased levels of physical activity three months after completing the program
of participants would recommend the program to family and friends
People living on low incomes are disproportionately affected by diet-related illnesses. Research shows that the vast majority of adults in food-insecure households have at least one chronic disease; most have more than one.1
63.1% of the community members we surveyed in 2014 reported having or having had one or more food-related physical or mental health conditions, including depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. Of those, 88.7% said coming to Community Food Centre programs helped them deal with their condition.
Treating chronic health conditions is extremely costly to our health-care system — treating Type 2 diabetes alone is projected to cost over $16.9 billion by 20202. By thinking upstream and creating opportunities for people to develop food skills and knowledge, Community Food Centres strive to encourage positive long-term improvements in people’s health, and to reduce the pressure on our health budgets over time.
of respondents with one or more health conditions say participating in Community Food Centre programs has helped them better manage their condition
of people surveyed say their involvement with Community Food Centre programs has contributed to improvements in their physical health over the past year
of community garden respondents report a positive change in their physical fitness level as a result of their participation in the program
I have had no [more] dizzy spells or heartburn. [Before], I was more depressed and confused. I was going to the doctor every three months, and now he doesn’t want to see me for six months. So what does that tell you?— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
Since eating here, I have become more health-focused and exercise regularly because of it.— participant at The Stop Community Food Centre
I’m eating a lot better, a lot more fruits and vegetables, and I feel great.— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
[My] high blood pressure is down. I do a lot of walking every day, and eat the right foods.— participant at The Table Community Food Centre
In 2014, Tosh, an avid gardener, met Laird, a widower, in The Table Community Food Centre’s community garden program. Every year, dozens of garden volunteers sow The Table’s more than 8,000 square feet of community garden space and harvest thousands of pounds of produce that’s split between volunteers and The Table’s programs.
Tosh and Laird struck up a quick friendship in the garden, and Laird soon found himself telling Tosh about how his sunny yard was begging for a veggie patch. The two joined forces to create an informal yard-sharing project which kept them both well-fed all season. Tosh’s green thumb produced a bounty of kale, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. Laird, in turn, was able to harvest at will.
Laird is a self-proclaimed “meat and potatoes kind of guy,” but he says he’s felt more confident trying new foods with Tosh’s encouragement. And their friendship and network of support has grown too. “Both sides benefit from this equation,” says Tosh. Spin-off benefits like these abound when you create spaces that encourage people to connect and develop skills together. It all adds up to a more connected and resourceful community.
Living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet can have serious and lasting effects on an individual's mood, ability to cope, and sense of hopefulness and inclusion. Canadians with the lowest incomes are three to four times more likely to report fair to poor mental health than the highest income-earners.3
Community Food Centres are supportive environments that welcome people regardless of circumstance and provide multiple new ways to participate and become engaged in the life of the community. They are a new type of public space where good food has a multiplier effect: where coming together over a healthy meal, working with a group in the kitchen, volunteering in a garden, or getting involved in a social justice club can lead to reduced stress, increased feelings of empowerment and belonging, and new friendships and supports.
volunteers hours were contributed by 1,217 volunteers
of people surveyed say programs have contributed positively to their mental health in the past year
of people surveyed have made new friends at their Community Food Centre and 87.9% feel that they belong to a community there
of people surveyed have met at least one person they can turn to for advice and count on in a time of crisis
I feel like I belong somewhere. I feel happy with a sense of purpose. I feel like I fit in.— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
I have the peace of mind knowing that there is something warm, freshly cooked. To [be able to] come here to interact, to debate about politics, to have conversation [has a] positive effect on mental health.— participant at The Regent Park Community Food Centre
“I became a peer advocate after taking Regent Park Community Food Centre’s community action training. I was excited: I earned my Master’s degree in Social Work in Bangladesh, and helping others has always been my calling. But as a new mother in a new community and country, I felt isolated. When I started the training, I knew I was on the right path to helping others and myself.
With every community member I assisted, my confidence grew. One of my proudest moments was helping a woman start her business. We knew each other from dropping our children off at school, and I realized she was facing similar issues to me: isolation and feeling powerless to make the changes she wanted to make in her life. Over several months, I supported her through the process of starting her at-home childcare business. Mentally, physically, she’s excellent now, she’s doing what she loves, and she feels empowered.
Each resource offered here can have a larger impact than expected, whether it’s a healthy meal or advice and support. One small step – picking up a flyer on the community action training – has turned into a bigger step for me, too: next year, I’m going back to school in Ryerson University’s Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals program.”
Hunger, poverty, and poor health are issues that affect millions of Canadians each year. They are problems that can only be solved on a large scale through progressive policy responses in the areas of affordable housing, income supports, wages, social assistance, and investments in healthy food. We believe that people whose lives are affected by these issues must be involved in pushing for change, as well as in increasing community capacity, and supporting each other.
At Community Food Centres, peer advocacy offices are staffed by trained community members with a lived experience of poverty and marginalization who can help neighbours in need by connecting them to resources and available supports. A 12-week community action training course offers a way for people to become informed about big-picture issues and feel better equipped to take action. And social justice clubs empower people to be leaders, and to join with peer organizations in pushing for lasting change.
hours logged by advocates during 584 peer advocacy sessions
community action training sessions and 73 social justice club sessions offered
of people who used advocacy office services found them helpful in resolving their issues
of social justice club participants say the group helped them think differently about the challenges they face in their lives
of social justice club members have taken action on an issue since they joined
After losing my full-time job… I was feeling useless to make change and depressed. Joining this social justice group gave me a place to have my views appreciated, useful, and heard.— participant at The Table Community Food Centre
[This experience] has empowered me! Going through this thing is to empower others, but I’ve also empowered myself. It’s made me more comfortable stepping forward.— participant at The Local Community Food Centre
We are building a strong, responsive organization that has local impact and national scale, a nexus where change-making collaborations can begin.
Through the Good Food Organizations initiative, we are sharing knowledge and resources with 75 organizations across the country, and strengthening local capacity and coast-to-coast connection through online trainings and webinars and our annual Food Summit. Additional support through the new Good Food Grants program, provides access to funding to expand community food security work and develop local innovations that can be shared with others. These programs are underpinned by our online resource portal,The Pod Knowledge Exchange.
Through collaborations with chefs and restaurants, farmers, good food companies, health practitioners, educational institutions, and advocacy organizations, we are raising awareness about the issues in our food system and creating shared opportunities to push for change.
Together, we are all working towards a healthy and fair food system where access to healthy food is a basic human right. Join us.
2015: Launch of the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre in Winnipeg and the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre in Nova Scotia.
2016: Community Food Centres under development in Calgary and Hamilton.
2017 and beyond: 4 more Community Food Centres in development across the country.
The Good Food Organizations initiative supports community health centres, food banks, family centres, and other social service organizations to offer effective food programs grounded in shared Good Food Principles. The program provides access to trainings, tools, an annual conference, grants and a network of peer support.
The Good Food Grants program supports Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations in the areas of capacity-building, children and youth innovation, and FoodFit program delivery.
The first annual Food Summit drew delegates from across Canada to network and participate in working sessions and workshops designed to increase the impact of community food security programs.
Good Food Champions like Dr. Mike Evans, author Naomi Duguid, Dr. Danielle Martin, and chef Jamie Oliver have joined their voices to ours to call for a healthy and fair food system.
The Good Food Organizations initiative gives us access to a network of similar organizations that we can learn from and with whom we can share best practices. Combining our voices can help us more effectively push for action on food and poverty issues.— Daniel Rotman, executive director of the Carrefour alimentaire Centre-Sud, a Good Food Organization
Community Food Centres Canada’s belief in good food for all aligns so much with what we value: supporting local food systems, working to ensure that everyone has access to the foods we think are best for ourselves and our families, the importance of sharing meals with friends.— Ryan Donovan, co-owner, Richmond Station, a Restaurant for Change
CFCC combines my three favourite things: disruptive innovation of a service, helping vulnerable populations with a basic need, and the creation of a culture of care.— Dr. Mike Evans, physician and Good Food Champion
The Stop Community Food Centre, Toronto, ON (founding partner)
The Table Community Food Centre, Perth, ON
The Local Community Food Centre, Stratford, ON
(in partnership with the United Way Perth-Huron)
Dartmouth North Community Food Centre, Dartmouth, NS
(in partnership with Dartmouth Family Centre)
NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre, Winnipeg, MB
(in partnership with NorWest Co-op Community Health Centre)
The Regent Park Community Food Centre, Toronto, ON
(in partnership with CRC)
Future Community Food Centre in Calgary,
(in partnership with The Alex Community Health Centre)
Future Community Food Centre in Hamilton,
(in partnership with Neighbour to Neighbour Centre)
Sandy Houston, Chair
President and CEO, George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation
Gillian Smith, Vice-President
VP, Membership, Toronto Region Board of Trade
Brian Lawson, Treasurer
Senior Managing Partner and Chief Financial Officer, Brookfield Asset Management
Scott Lamacraft, Secretary
CEO, Cormark Securities
Sandra Clarkson, Director
President, MSH Strategies Inc.
Michael MacMillan, Director
CEO, Blue Ant Media
Bill Saul, Director
Past President and CEO, Kids Help Phone
Agapè Centre Cornwall, ON
All Things Food/Bouffe 360° (Green Food Box Program) Mountain, ON
Anti-Hunger Coalition Timmins Timmins, ON
Bethany Hope Centre Ottawa, ON
Better Beginnings Better Futures Sudbury, ON
Bread Basket/Corbeille de Pain: Lac-Saint-Louis Pointe Claire, QC
Bridges Community Health Centre Fort Erie, ON
Carrefour alimentaire Centre-Sud Montreal, QC
Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House Vancouver, BC
Colchester Community Support Society Truro, NS
Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre London, ON
Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre Toronto, ON
Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services Toronto, ON
Eat Local Sudbury Co-op Sudbury, ON
Eden Food for Change Mississauga, ON
Enderby and District Community Resource Centre Enderby, BC
Family Ties New Carlisle, QC
Food Matters Manitoba Winnipeg, MB
Good Food Brampton Brampton, ON
Good Food Centre, Ryerson Students’ Union Toronto, ON
Gordon Neighbourhood House Vancouver, BC
Grandview Woodland Food Connection Vancouver, BC
Greater Fredericton Social Innovation Fredericton, NB
Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society Vancouver, BC
Greenest City Toronto, ON
Green Thumbs Growing Kids Toronto, ON
Guelph Student Food Bank Guelph, ON
Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association Calgary, AB
Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge Lethbridge, AB
Interior Community Services Kamloops, BC
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House Vancouver, BC
Ksan House Society Terrace, BC
Loving Spoonful Kingston, ON
LUSH Valley Food Action Society Courtenay, BC
Midwest Food Resources Turtleford, SK
Mission Services of Hamilton Hamilton, ON
NDG Food Depot Montreal, QC
Nelson Food Cupboard Nelson, BC
Nishnawabe Aski Nation Thunder Bay, ON
North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society Kaslo, BC
North Shore Neighbourhood House - Edible Garden Project North Vancouver, BC
Open Doors Burlington, ON
Operation Sharing Ingersoll, ON
Our Sustenance - Six Nations Oshweken, ON
PACT Grow to Learn Toronto, ON
Parkdale Food Centre Ottawa, ON
Pedvac Foundation Port Elgin, NB
Produire la santé ensemble Val d’Espoir, QC
REACH: Regina Education and Action on Child Hunger Regina, SK
Regenesis Toronto, ON
Regional Food Distribution Association Thunder Bay, ON
Revitalisation Saint-Pierre Lachine, QC
Richmond Food Security Society Richmond, BC
Rideau Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre
(Poverty and Hunger Working Group) Ottawa, ON
Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre Saskatoon, SK
Share the Warmth / Partageons l’Espoir Montreal, QC
Squamish Climate Action Network Squamish, BC
Start Me Up Niagara St. Catharines, ON
Syme Woolner Neighbourhood & Family Centre Toronto, ON
The Down Stairs Kitchen Hamilton, ON
The Gathering Place North Bay, ON
The Maize of Western Elgin West Lorne, ON
The Nourish and Develop Foundation Cannington, ON
The Seed Guelph, ON
Unison Health and Community Services Toronto, ON
Welcome Inn Community Centre Hamilton, ON
West Broadway Community Organization (Good Food Club) Winnipeg, MB
West End Food Bank Moncton, NB
West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op Association Winlaw, BC
Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre Kanata, ON
Winchelsea Farms Inc.Mountain, ON
Windsor-Essex Community Garden Collective Windsor, ON
Wolfville Farmers' Market - The Good Food Hub Wolfville, NS
YWCA Peterborough Haliburton Peterborough, ON
YWCA St. Thomas Food Works St. Thomas, ON
The generous support of the following individuals, foundations, government agencies and businesses directly contributed to our 2014 results. Their contributions supported the development of centres, programs, events, evaluation and other centralized leadership resources. Funders and sponsors that contributed to Community Food Centres Canada are listed for the period between January 1 and December 31, 2014 for contributions of $1,000 or more. An * indicates in-kind support, and ** indicates in-kind and financial support. We also thank those donors who contributed funding to us through their United Way donations.