The LFFC convened a special double session—“Co-ops 4 All”—at the 2017 Assembly that asked how co-ops can provide access to healthy and fresh food to all members of their community. We explored initiatives to provide access for low income and marginalized groups in co-ops’ community, and shared ideas about new projects. The session was also designed to provide input for a fundraising initiative undertaken this year by the network.
The session was facilitated by Mandy Bergman and Ayal Dinner. They presented on the Co-op Cred program in Parkdale, a collaboration between the West End Food Co-op, PARC (a drop in centre in Parkdale), Greenest City, and other local organizations. Farm co-ops and food co-ops attended and described a range of projects (see chart) that are underway: farmers’ market vouchers, donations, education, and work placement/ exchange projects like Co-op Cred, and the St. Jamestown Co-op time bank project. Social enterprise projects are also in development such as the new healthy food and wellness co-op in Toronto’s York Region. Farmer collaborative and co-ops working on inclusive and equity-based projects also attended.
Although many co-ops provide donations to local organizations such as food banks and community organizations, the ideas went beyond donations to consider co-op activities and models that provide a welcome space for all groups—truly Co-ops 4 All!
The group identified key needs and challenges which might be addressed by collaborative projects through the LFFC Network. These include exchange of templates, resources and models, and ways to link innovative projects to people with the expertise to help them move forward. The participants addressed challenges: how do you transport participants to programming on farms or locations outside the community? How do you ensure inclusivity across the co-op, including board governance, consultation, access to work? How do you ensure the right expertise within the co-op to work with vulnerable communities?
LFFC has developed a core group to submit collaborative funding applications to support these pilot projects, access expertise, and share resources; please let us know if you are interested in being part of this great group!