Since December 2020, the St. James Town Community Co-op has been running an Emergency Food Program out of the Wellesley Community Center. Through this program we provided 1000s of nutritious food hampers to St. James Town residents, and now provide food to over 400 households on a recurring basis (but still, our waitlist continues to grow). We’ve built community, connected with so many wonderful volunteers who have been alongside us for this whole ride, improved our systems, strengthened relationships with our partners, and met so many incredible residents.
Summary of updates:
- Our permit for the Wellesley Community Centre Ends at the end of June
- The team is working really hard to find a new space
- We will take a break from food distribution for the week of June 28 to transition
- If we cannot find any space, we will test an outdoor delivery model, with some items cut from the boxes
- You can help! See end of post
As the Covid-19 pandemic starts to wind down, services are beginning to open up and in-person community programming might finally see the light of day. For us, this means that the Wellesley Community Center may need to transition our space to youth programs (which are hugely needed!), and may not be able to accommodate our emergency food program much longer. Our permit to use this space ends at the end of June.
Our team has been working very hard over the last months (and years!) to try to secure longer-term space in St. James Town, with little luck. The lack of community space in the neighbourhood is a systemic problem for many community-based organizations. We have been looking at a few locations, each with a major barrier, such as accessibility, expense, or lack of food storage (what we need most right now!). We know that our community needs continued food support, and we are forced to prepare a model that can operate without space at all!
An idea we have been toying with (and will likely be the only option left if our Community Center permit cannot be extended) is outdoors distribution. If it comes down to this, we will set up tents and a water station, get our volunteers and wagons together, and continue delivering these boxes to our neighbours. Outdoor distribution obviously comes with a lot of challenges – a stark one for us is that some of the essential ingredients to our Emergency Food Hamper may not be able to make it in. Without space too keep things cool and stored over the weeks, we won’t be able to provide milk, eggs, and potentially even dried goods to our community members. We see this as a huge loss! Community members have been so happy with these extra products and it’s important to us to be able to provide a well rounded box (check out any of our media appearances, a diverse, culturally appropriate, and full food box has always been essential in our minds). Regardless, we will not be distributing on the week of June 28th to prep for a model.
Despite the many barriers, the St. James Town Community Co-op will continue to strive for food security in our neighbourhood and identifying avenues for our neighbours to hold power in the food system and in building the new food system we need. This includes working towards implementing our OASIS Food hub!
What can you do to help keep the program running?
– You can sign our petition for permanent space
– Donate to us by e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org
– If you’ve received a food box – tell us why it is important that this program continues, in this survey – it will help us prove the importance of this program and advocate for permanent space!