In 2011, a group of St. James Town residents approached locally-founded human rights organization Low Income Families Together (LIFT) with a burning desire – they wanted to bring healthy affordable food into the neighbourhood in a way that built community and social inclusion. And so, they started to run pop-up cafes – providing healthy Pay What You Can dinners on a monthly basis. It was a beautiful experience of community and food…but it was also a lot of work. Lugging equipment and food from kitchen to venue, constantly searching for space, and relying on grants; it was an exhausting and unsustainable way of doing community-food.
Cafe’s Feasibility Study
What organizational structure could adequately “hold”and sustain the work of the cafe?
The answer: a community co-operative. The St. James Town Community Co-operative (SJTCC) was then founded, with the mission of enabling community projects and social enterprises that improve the quality of life in St. James Town, with a focus on food security and resilience to climate change. The co-op is a democratic non-profit that maintains at least 50% resident membership to ensure control remains with those most directly impacted and served, St. James Town residents.
Co-op members got to talking and realized that a truly sustainable food co-op would not only serve food, but would also grow it, procure it, and manage the waste. We realized we could grow food in our high-rise community, and so began the OASIS Food Hub – core project of the St. James Town Community Co-op.
All of this was developed under the care and guidance of incubator LIFT – formed in 1991 to empower low-income citizen participation. As an organizational member of the co-op, it brings a history of successful community initiatives, and the expertise of founder Josephine Grey, who has helped establish many thriving organizations including:
- Project Esperance – housing for survivors of domestic violence
- Green Thumbs Growing Kids Winchester Garden
- The Wellesley Community Center
- Income Security Advocacy Center
- St. James Town Community Corner
- St. James Town Youth Council
- Conscious Minds Co-operative