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Earlier this year, a member of our GreenHeroes team, Aviva, visited the Vineland Research and Innovation Center in Vineland, Ontario to learn about an exciting new project planting ethno-cultural food crops in Ontario. The initiative excited us because it will provide culturally-specific foods to communities throughout Toronto.

One of the leading partners on the project is the Stop Community Food Center, whose manager of urban agriculture met with Aviva while exploring the fields of budding plants. Rhonda Teitel-Payne is a GreenHero, incredibly dedicated to her work, which doubtlessly contributes to the fact that the Stop is much more than a food bank.

The Stop is inspiring to us as a model for educating the community on healthy ways of eating and sustainable ways of growing food, offering tangible strategies for boosting local food in our communities. Rhonda sent us her thoughts about the work they’re doing to bring local food into the city and educate the community on sustaining their own local food system.

By Rhonda Teitel-Payne

I’m often asked how we can talk to people about the benefits of local, organic food given that The Stop’s mandate is to increase access to healthy food for people living in poverty.

Our programs debunk the notion that people living on low incomes are not interested in environmental issues such as organic production and food miles.

Aside from affirming that our community does care about good nutrition, fresh taste and chemical-free food, The Stop’s Urban Agriculture programs offer some tangible strategies for boosting the local food content in our communities. We coordinate community gardens where people can learn about using organic methods to grow food while increasing the amount of fresh, local produce available in our food programs. Workshops help the learning process, but working in the garden with other people and sharing in their knowledge is still the best way to build good gardening skills.

Knowing that there is nowhere near enough greenhouse space in the city to meet the demand for seedling production, The Stop built a 3,000 square foot greenhouse known as the Green Barn at St. Clair and Christie. The greenhouse keeps us growing organic produce year-round, and also allows us to start long-season seedlings such as tomatoes and peppers to share with community gardens across the city.

Our most recent project at the Green Barn is the Global Roots Garden, which demonstrates food grown by seven different cultural communities. This highlights the contributions of immigrant urban farmers to our city while demonstrating that some foods do not need to be imported from far away, with the resulting environmental impacts. We are increasing the amount of local land available for urban farming through our YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) project, which connects gardeners looking for room to grow with people with under-used yard space.

You can find out more about The Stop’s programs and how to get involved at www.TheStop.org. If you live in Toronto, let the city know you support local food initiatives. Check out Toronto Public Health’s latest take on how Toronto can strengthen our food system.

Don’t forget to leave a comment here on what you’re doing to eat locally and sustainably, and visit and comment on the Tasting Local Food campaign page!

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