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Anyone wandering around Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood last Thursday would have had a hard time missing the sight of the big celebration at 40 Oak St. The official opening of the Regent Park Community Food Centre welcomed community members to explore the gardens, kitchen, dining room and nearby park. More than 400 people flowed between spaces, trying different foods, learning about the CFC's programs, and meeting new friends. The event was a clear testament to the Community Food Centre's role as community hub, one that uses good food as the medium for its message.
Home to a culturally and socio-economically diverse community, Regent Park has been eagerly anticipating the Community Food Centre for some time. And judging by the great turnout, last Thursday's event offered sweet satisfaction that the project has finally taken off. "We expected 300 to attend but by 6 pm it was clear we'd surpassed that number," says Emily Martyn, Community Food Centre Manager. The Toronto Star's Jennifer Bain wrote about spending the afternoon in the CFC's senior's community kitchen. CTV Toronto showed up to do a live noon broadcast from set-up. Torontoist also covered the launch.
Regent Park Community Food Centre has been rolling out programs throughout the year, including community kitchens, a peer advocacy program, a community meal program, and gardens, thanks in part to important support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Now, with a full suite of staff hired and programs up and running, the September open house was a perfect time to showcase all the CFC has been up to and how the community can get involved. The opening was packed with activities that showcased the breadth of programming on offer at the CFC. A community garden station boasted recently installed raised garden beds and a garlic planting activity where participants planted over 250 cloves. In a nearby public park where CFC staff will be animating a garden, bake oven, and greenhouse, volunteers ran a seed sprouting activity and participants got to take home a sprouting starter pack that will offer up fresh greens come the cold months ahead. Back inside the Community Food Centre, at the community action station, a team of advocates talked about how they help community members access government assistance, health care, and social services in times of need.
Of course, an event like this wouldn't be complete without plenty of good food to share. And indeed, there was a bounty of it. The CFC's kitchen team served chicken and veggies kebabs on pitas; a group of Chinese seniors — alumni from a recent senior's community kitchen group — offered up traditional Chinese dumplings; and local restaurant Richmond Station cooked veggie shawarma with a colourful array of toppings for a steady stream of eager eaters.
By dusk, when most had departed and organizers had a moment to stop and reflect, it was clear that the event was a resounding success. "The great turnout is evidence of how much enthusiasm there is in the neighbourhood for this project," said Emily Martyn. "It was a great opportunity to see all the people who had been dreaming about the Community Food Centre together in one place — the people who had been thinking about it ten years ago, community residents who have been participating in the project, and Community Food Centres Canada staff — all those people came out tonight to celebrate and see how their ideas have become a reality."
+ Read the Torontoist’s take on the launch of the new CFC
+ Hear Regent Park Community Food Centre Manager Emily Martyn talking with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning
+ See more photos from the launch on Regent Park CFC's Facebook page