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Grocery Stores

West End Food Co-op Food Hub

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on October 13, 2012

west end food co op torontoWest End Food Co-op's Food Hub is Toronto's newest co-operative grocery store, and the first one to open in the city in about 25 years.

Located at Queen and Dufferin in the lower level of the Parkdale Community Health Centre, this food shop was actually conceived six years ago, says retail and kitchen coordinator Ayal Dinner. "But it takes a lot of capital, and a lot of time," he says. "We just didn't have it then."

west end food co op food hub torontoSo the founding members instead focused on fostering a weekly west-end farmers' market, which most community neighbours know as the Monday afternoon Sorauren Farmers' Market. That farmers' market has been connecting local producers with the community since 2008, building a roster of about 35 vendors offering everything from organic kale, to free-range venison.

west end food co op food hub torontoMany of those same vendors are offering their goods in the new Food Hub space, which had undergone an eco-friendly renovation in prep for its grand opening just one week ago. "It was amazing," says City Seed farmer Erica Lemieux, who offers her locally grown produce at the Sorauren Farmers' Market (and is looking to get into the Hub). "We had about 700 members before the launch, and another 150 signed up on that same day."

west end food co op food hub torontoA lifetime membership at the Food Hub is $5, and it allows "eaters" to peruse the shelves as well as participate in various co-op activities.

"It was really the community that helped us get this off the ground," Ayal says as he walks me through the space. "It took a bunch of fundraising and most of what was raised came through community bonds. Ayal says there are about 200 bondholders that have invested anywhere from $100 to $4000. "Because we didn't get a loan from a bank or sit down with one investor offering a couple hundred thousand dollars, it took a lot of time."

west end food co op food hub torontoBut naturally, a single large donation isn't really the West End Food Co-op (or any food co-op, for that matter) way. "I think our society's culture is geared more toward the concept of the individual," Ayal says when I ask why Toronto has experienced such a drought in new co-ops over the last 20 years.

west end food co op food hub torontoThere's Karma in the Annex and The Big Carrot (a worker's co-op) on the Danforth, but both were established several decades ago. "It takes a lot of time, a lot of money. And compared to other countries or even over in Quebec, which is just right next to us, there's not a lot of support."

west end food co op torontoThe West End Food Hub has found support, however, and it already boasts a healthy selection of fresh produce, meats, pantry items, and household supplies. Among its offerings are jars of tomato sauces ($5), pear chutneys ($6), strawberry balsamic jams ($6), and more from its Community Cannery, which has moved much of its operation to the Food Hub floor.

There's also hot coffee on offer from ChocoSol (plus lots of ChocoSol products to take home) and fresh breads to come from suppliers such as De La Terre and Alli's.

west end food co op torontoIn terms of meats and produce, most everything is labelled with the name and details of the source farm, and items are seasonal/local/organic as much as possible. The Food Hub is currently open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Wednesday operating hours to be added to the schedule within the next two weeks.

Photos by Gloria Nieto

Discussion

28 Comments

Aaron / October 13, 2012 at 02:37 am
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While it's fantastic that cutesy little co-ops- offering such staples as organic kale and free-range venison- are opening, is anything being to address the near 50% of the city categorized as 'food deserts'. You know, those areas where people can't access a simple loaf of bread or bottle of ketchup? Not that it matters or anything.
lynn replying to a comment from Aaron / October 13, 2012 at 08:42 am
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Yes in fact Foodshare, another innovative non profit-that greatly supported the development of this co-op, is currently piloting a program of bringing fresh food into under served neighbirhoods of Toronto...in a truck..and selling off the back of it.
Sean / October 13, 2012 at 09:43 am
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I'll sign up, plus I'll throw in another $5.00 for the guy in the third picture to get a hairnet. The last thing I want is his hair in the food he's preparing.

If anybody here objects to my thoughts, I won't sign-up.
MJ / October 13, 2012 at 10:53 am
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I agree, that guy should be at least tying his hair back.
thedude / October 13, 2012 at 10:57 am
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You think hairnets are necessary? Well that's just like, you know, your opinion, man.
Anthony / October 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm
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I thought the same thing about the hair. I didn't notice which sex it was, I just thought the hair hanging over the food was a turn-off.
Willikins replying to a comment from Aaron / October 13, 2012 at 02:44 pm
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To call the concerted effort of dozens of people over several years to bring affordable, sustainable and organic food to Parkdale 'cutesy' is a real dick move. If the food deserts, which do exist fair point, bother you so much then why don't you get off your keyboard and do something to address them instead of belittling other people's work?
Ellen replying to a comment from Aaron / October 13, 2012 at 02:54 pm
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I would encourage you check out the history of the co-op!
LC / October 13, 2012 at 03:29 pm
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Sorry but could someone explain what the mandate of this co-op is? How is it different than a privately run health food store? Is it non-profit so it's cheaper? Do members have to work in the store? Some basic information would be nice.
markus / October 13, 2012 at 03:36 pm
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Can you say 'food poisoning'?
omar replying to a comment from LC / October 13, 2012 at 03:42 pm
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Coops generally follow these principles, though I'm sure someone from the coop can say more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Principles#Current_ICA_version_of_co-operative_principles
LC replying to a comment from omar / October 13, 2012 at 03:57 pm
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I know the big picture concept but I'd like specifics on this co-op. I read their website and it seems like the grocery just supports the organisation's other initiatives. I'm trying to figure out why I should shop there other than out of the goodness of my heart.
Cindy replying to a comment from LC / October 13, 2012 at 04:08 pm
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LC, I am sure the good people at the WEFC would be more than happy to chat with you about your questions. A visit to the coop or the farmer's market may be a good idea to help you make your decision.
I, for one, am amazed at the efforts of the all the people who have made this project, thus far, a success. Community oriented, community built and inclusive of all who wish to participate. Congratulations on the opening of the store!
MDA / October 13, 2012 at 04:18 pm
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As someone who has volunteered with WEFC I can add that it is a multi-stakeholder co-op, so farmers, workers, consumers, and community organizations are members. They have programs to promote access to healthy food to lower income community members (through community agency partners), provide a dependable source of income for local farmer members year round, etc. More info here: http://westendfood.coop/our-story.
James / October 14, 2012 at 09:10 am
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I support any initiative that provides food outside of the three major chains that dominate our food distribution in Ontario.
LA replying to a comment from Aaron / October 14, 2012 at 03:33 pm
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I agree with Willikins. What a belittling thing to say. Also, to call this effort "cutesy" is totally disrespectful. I have been a patron of the Sorauren Market for many years now, and I am aware that this project has been in the works for a very long time. There is nothing cutesy about it. It is made of a lot of hard work, great intentions, and community.

I applaud the effort of these guys and look forward to visiting and supporting this hub!
Theresa replying to a comment from thedude / October 14, 2012 at 05:50 pm
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In a restaurant wearing a hairnet is not based on the opinion of the person doing the food prep, it's the law.
Theresa replying to a comment from LA / October 14, 2012 at 05:51 pm
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Well said!
Amanda / October 14, 2012 at 08:08 pm
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I am also a volunteer for the WEFC and I would say to anyone who doubts the pure awesomeness of this project, go and check it out for yourself. The prices are amazing and the selection and quality of goods is top notch! I would highly suggest picking up some smoked duck from Clover Roads Organic Farm. I'm addicted. The WEFC does really great things for the community and I am excited that they have this new home base. Go and visit, ask questions and buy stuff!
Gus / October 15, 2012 at 02:26 am
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I think that guy should put on a proper hairnet.

Until then, you won't catch me there.
jim / October 18, 2012 at 01:24 am
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I think you should stop being a loser and get a life. I should do the same.
georgina s / January 15, 2013 at 12:45 am
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you people do realize that our bodies are pretty much 100% covered in hair and shedding skin and bacteria and micro-organisms and parasites and OH MY GOD NEVER LEAVE YOUR HOUSE AGAIN!
relax, and think your way through your conditioning. That guys hair is never going to kill or make anybody sick. Your federally inspected industrial food producers massive plants on the other hand...
but, hey, it's wrapped in plastic so it must be safe, right?!
Melissa Goldstein / January 21, 2013 at 05:24 pm
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James, the guy in the photo, always wears a hairnet (in accordance with the law) when preparing food at the co-op.

I suppose it didn't occur to anyone that the missing hairnet might be because James found himself having to pose for an unexpected photo shoot, and was actually busy stocking shelves when Blog TO arrived on the scene, less than a week after the store had opened?

The place has changed A LOT since Blog TO stopped by, you should come and check it out...and learn what makes a food co-op different from a health food store (customers, suppliers, staff and community members are all owners and have a say in the activities of the organization, for one) and about the programs that we're working on to improve access to healthy, local food and reduce food insecurity in the community.

And for the record, the WEFC has passed all Food Premises Regulation inspections by the Board of Health. You can view the results here: http://www.toronto.ca/health/dinesafe/#inspectionResult
Courtney / January 22, 2013 at 10:31 am
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I live in the neighbourhood and am a co-op member. I think they are doing a great job. Every time I go in I take a moment to see what's new. I am someone who does like to spend my money locally when ever possible and try to shop at farmers markets when I can. However, because of my job has a crazy constantly shifting schedule, I find that I have been missing the Monday Sorauren market and I don't have the time to trek to farmers markets in other areas. The co-op provides most of the produce from the farmers I would buy from at the market but I does it 6 days a week. They also have many pantry staples that are organic (and many fair trade) at a great price. As someone who loves to bake, I have been taking advantage of that :) Basically, they are a welcome addition to the area and I'm excited to see what develops now that they are fully up and running.
Trevor replying to a comment from Sean / July 14, 2013 at 12:02 am
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I'd rather eat a full spaghetti made from his hair than most of the food at a regular supermarket. Perhaps call the store and tell them your thoughts, rather than posting on a forum.

Celebrate the birth of a new coop in Toronto, rather than picking on photos that might not be representative of actual food prep here.
Yvonne Booth / August 30, 2013 at 10:44 pm
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I am hoping to see James' recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that he prepared for his class in bread making at the Bain Co-op. They were so delicious and we all raved about them while we were sitting around the table waiting for the bread to rise. James said he planned to put it up on the website. Please alert me when it comes out. Thanks!
jimmy / January 23, 2014 at 08:13 pm
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That sounds cool. I will check them out. I hope u will too.
Li Sin replying to a comment from Sean / March 21, 2014 at 05:34 am
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grow a pair, its hair, a natural source of fiber.

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