New Toronto food coop wants more of the food money to go to the farmers

From Catherine Porter on The

“Hey Occupy Toronto foodies: Instead of holing up inside the basement of a city-owned building on Queen West, you should come to the basement of the Community Health Centre in Parkdale.

Here, something truly radical is brewing: the first food co-operative built in Toronto in 28 years.

By next spring, the West End Food Co-operative will appear like a small grocery store in the basement of the community centre, its wooden shelves stocked with locally grown vegetables and locally made soaps. In the centre of the store will be a kitchen, where store employees will lead workshops with clients from upstairs. Workshops could include cooking with sex workers, or teaching Roma refugee families how to can tomatoes. And there will be a small café, where members can pick up a cup of fair-trade coffee and warm peach pie, made from the extra peaches a local farmer dropped off.

The store won’t be owned by distant, unknown shareholders. It will be owned by the people who shop there, work there and the farmers who supply it.

“We’re trying to take the economic system in our own hands and feed ourselves and our community,” said Ayal Dinner, the West End Co-op’s operations co-ordinator, who gave me a tour of the space Monday afternoon.

Co-operatives are an old idea. The most famous was started in 1844 by a group of miserably poor cotton spinners in Rochdale, in northern England. Alone, they couldn’t afford flour and sugar. Together, they got a discount price. Some things are that simple. They also learned that by working together, they could improve other things. All co-operatives today still run along the basic Rochdale principles of open membership, democratic control, education and concern for community.

How often do you think of democracy when you are shopping for hot dogs?

In Toronto, we haven’t seen any new food co-operatives since the last gasp of the counter-culture movement in the early 1980s. Until now.

And it’s not just here. Across Ontario, 13 new food co-ops are under development.

“There’s a renaissance,” Russ Christianson, a co-operative developer with the Ontario Co-operative Association, told me.

The cooks are members of the local food movement. But they share the same table as the Occupiers.

Some statistics: Three companies own 90 per cent of the grocery stores in Ontario and sell 63 per cent of all the food Ontarians eat. Meanwhile, the average farm in Ontario makes less than $25,000 a year.

“Of every dollar spent on food, 20 cents goes to the farmer in a conventional grocery store. The middle people are taking all that money,” says Christianson. “In a co-operative, 60 cents of that dollar goes to the farmer.”..”

Read it all on The


Filed under News

2 responses to “New Toronto food coop wants more of the food money to go to the farmers

  1. Raoul

    Very inspiring . I am glad to finally read of this resurgence from the counter-culture days. Another super-inspiring coop is the Big Carrot in Toronto with there amazing new rooftop garden .

  2. Ian Graham

    And the point should be made in the same newspaper that was linked here about the Wheat Board, is that it too is a cooperative, not a monopoly.

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