The Community Food Flow (CFF) project explores opportunities, assets and challenges of community food distribution and food procurement in Toronto’s West Central neighbourhoods. A wide range of non-profit community organizations provide food-related programs and services for low-income and marginalized populations facing food insecurity. These organizations include (but are not limited to) drop-ins, shelters, supportive housing, community health centres, multi-service agencies, food-based social enterprises, and food banks; these organizations constitute what is referred to as “the community food sector.” The CFF project illuminates how these community food organizations procure food through donations and purchases with due consideration to distribution channels that they rely on.

Because of insufficient funding and resources however, community food organizations have limited access to fresh and nutritious food and as a result, struggle to meet their members’ needs. Access to healthy food is also affected by community food flow: food distribution and procurement practices situated in broader food system issues such as unequal access to affordable and healthy food. And yet, they are rarely assessed through indicators of project evaluation nor incorporated into organizational strategic planning. Therefore, the project conducts a full assessment of the food flows and access to affordable, healthy, culturally appropriate food in the community food sector.

The CFF project is built on innovative partnership development and collaboration with key players from various aspects of Toronto’s community food system. In particular, a strong research partnership with Toronto Public Health’s (TPH) Food Strategy team strengthened the project by providing a city-wide perspective and identifying a wide range of issues. The Community Food Flow project focused on community food organizations in West Central neighbourhoods, while the TPH research team encompassed community food organizations across the city.