Squeezed by increasing rents and stagnated incomes, low-income and immigrant community members often face complex food insecurity challenges. Unlike other “food desert” neighborhoods (where healthy food options are scarce), Parkdale has a range of food options. In Parkdale, the issue is not the availability but the affordability of healthy food. In addition, around 20% of residents in Parkdale rely on social assistance programs. Their benefits are so low that they do not cover the basic costs for accessing nutritious food. These local issues are further compounded by the Toronto’s high reliance on imported food, which make food prices vulnerable to currency fluctuations and climate impacts. Access to healthy food is one of the social determinants of health. Compounding community food insecurity is of great concern in Parkdale that has one of the highest health needs in Toronto, such as premature death and mental health.
Over the past 5 years, Parkdale has seeded a range of community food security initiatives at different scales. These include the establishment of the Parkdale Food Network, the Good Food Market, the Co-op Cred program, and the Food Flow project. Building on these community assets, the following four interrelated directions have emerged in order to build an integrated local food economy. This integration would enable for wider partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, anchor institutions, and local producers (e.g. the Sorauren farmers’ market). This integration could deepen active interdependence of multiple community economic and food assets. What lies at the heart of this integration is a proposed community food hub. An immense opportunity has emerged: one of the local churches in Parkdale is interested in repurposing the church space into a community food hub.