The Stop was founded as a food bank over 30 years ago in St. Stephen-in-the-Fields Church in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. The organization began as a direct response to feedback from a community severely affected by the recession. However, seeing that handing out food hampers wasn’t helping people find their way out of poverty or become engaged in their communities, the organization began to incorporate political and social initiatives such as community advocacy and cooking and gardening sessions into its mandate, in addition to continuing to operate its emergency food program.
In 2001, the organization took the name The Stop Community Food Centre and moved to the Davenport West neighbourhood, a diverse community with above-average rates of unemployment and low income. Since then, it has further expanded its programming to include targeted community kitchens and gardens, daily drop-in breakfasts and lunches and educational programs. In so doing, The Stop has pioneered the Community Food Centre model, which brings integrated programming in the areas of healthy food access, food skills development and education and engagement together under one roof to address intractable problems of hunger, poverty and poor health.
The Stop operates in two Toronto locations: at its main office at 1884 Davenport Rd, it provides frontline services to its community, including a drop-in, food bank, perinatal program, community action program, bake ovens and markets, community cooking, community advocacy, and urban agriculture programs at two off-site community gardens. The Stop's Green Barn, located in the Wychwood Barns, is a sustainable food production and education centre that houses a state-of-the-art 3,000-sq. ft. greenhouse, a sheltered garden, a Global Roots Garden, a community bake oven, a compost demonstration centre, and their year-round weekly farmers’ market on Saturday mornings.
The Stop’s fundraising team ensures consistent, dependable funding for these programs through a diversified approach to raising money and awareness that includes traditional methods as well as online fundraising, and popular events such as the annual What’s on the Table event and The Stop's Night Market.
Underlying all of The Stop’s work is the belief that healthy food is a basic human right. The Stop recognizes that people’s inability to access healthy food is caused by multiple issues, and that food banks are not the answer to persistent problems of poverty and poor health in our communities. The Stop has taken a holistic approach to improving its community’s access to healthy food. Its food-access programming helps confront the issue of hunger while fostering opportunities for community members to build mutual support networks, connect to resources and find their voices on the issues that matter to them. The Stop believes this approach can end the way charity divides us as a society into the powerful and the powerless, the self-sufficient and the shamed. The Stop has created a new model to fight poverty, hunger, poor health and isolation: the Community Food Centre.
More on The Stop
+ The Stop's 2014 Impact Summary [PDF]
+ Read Food Tank's article on The Stop: The Stop Community Food Centre: Empowering People in Need