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People and programs 09/21/2023

First impressions are everything. Walk through the doors of any Community Food Centre across the country and you will feel at home. Delicious scents waft from the kitchen and into the dining room. There are communal tables where neighbours gather to share nourishing meals and equally nourishing conversations. Local artists brighten the space with beautiful murals. Laughter and excitement drift into the space from the garden or greenhouse. 

All are welcome here.

A place to connect

Community Food Centres (CFCs) are vibrant, welcoming and positive spaces by design. Providing a source of connection and a sense of place for all, CFCs fill the role of the “third place”—not work, not home—in low-income communities across Canada. These third places are especially important as more and more Canadians experience loneliness and isolation alongside the rising cost of living.

For those living on low incomes, an outing to a local cafe to meet friends can be out of reach. In Beyond Hunger, our 2020 report on the hidden impacts of food insecurity in Canada, we found that 58 per cent of people we surveyed who were experiencing food insecurity also felt socially isolated. More recently, a StatsCan survey also showed that one in five Canadian seniors experience loneliness, impacting their overall mental health. 

Add it all up and you have many people who are isolated, lonely, and in need of connection. Community Food Centres, with their warm and welcoming environment, are an antidote to loneliness. They are spaces teeming with opportunities for connection whether it’s over a delicious meal, preparing nourishing food, or advocating for meaningful policy change.

Welcome by design

To truly live the Good Food Principles, Community Food Centres create spaces that meet the needs of their community by providing dignified, respectful, and accessible programs. Our Welcoming Spaces grant, most recently offered this year, supports CFCs in making upgrades and additions to their space to improve the experience for community members. 

Whether it’s the kitchen, dining area, or garden, the aim of the grant is to make the space more cheerful and welcoming.

Al fresco dining

Take Roots Community Food Centre in Thunder Bay, ON, which officially opened its doors as a Community Food Centre last year. With the Welcoming Spaces grant, Roots CFC will build an outdoor patio adjacent to their newly renovated indoor dining room to increase seating capacity. Soon, community members will be able to enjoy a meal indoors or outdoors from spring through to fall.

Markets for all

Montreal’s Carrefour Solidaire Community Food Centre runs a seasonal market to improve access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Located in front of a busy metro station, the Marché Solidaire Frontenac building has seen some wear and tear over the years. Thanks to the Welcoming Spaces grant, the CFC installed new doors to make the building more inviting during the day and secure at night, upgraded the market displays to make them easier to clean and more attractive to shoppers, and repaired the access ramp, allowing staff and community members of all abilities to navigate the space safely.

"Having somewhere to go and see people has helped with feeling isolated and dealing with depression. The more I go, the more I get connected with people.

Designing positive outcomes

When a community has opportunities to come together around food in a warm, welcoming and relaxed setting, it has a real impact. In our 2022 annual program survey, 72 per cent of community members surveyed made new friends at their Community Food Centre. And, 93 per cent  of community members felt they belonged to a community at their CFC.

As one community member from Harmony CFC put it: "Having somewhere to go and see people has helped with feeling isolated and dealing with depression. The more I go, the more I get connected with people.

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