“I’ve got stable housing [now, which] makes me feel great. I’ve also realized that when I came to The Stop I was very depressed. With a difference in eating and a better living place, I have been feeling more respect for my life.”

A place where people feel valued and respected 

When Ani first came to The Stop Community Food Centre in 2016, she was pregnant—about to embark on the big and scary mission of parenting a child on her own. She was living in a basement apartment with no financial stability, very few friends to count on, and no other family in Canada. She started attending The Stop's Healthy Beginnings program for expecting mothers and learned a lot about many pregnany and post-partum topics. But even more importantly for Ani, she felt heard, like the people running the program really cared about her well-being. For the very first time, she felt part of something. She was inspired to get more involved with her community, and provide support to others in a similar position.

After her daughter was born, Ani enrolled in The Stop's Community Action Training program. She calls it a life-changing experience. "It challenged my views and helped me re-learn how to see the world through an equity lens," she says. The program provided a safe space for Ani and her trainees to feel accepted, supported, and included while learning about the impact they could make through their understanding of systemic issues such as poverty, inequity, and food insecurity. Today, Ani is employed as an Information and Advocacy Worker in The Stop's Advocacy Office, working to support community members to resolve issues in their lives. She's part of the change in her community. 
 

A community centre built around good food

The Stop offers programming out of two locations. At their space on Davenport Road, they help people living on low incomes access healthy food in programs like their meal drop-in and their Healthy Food Bank, which offers an average of 15 different fruits and vegetables daily. At their innovative Healthy Beginnings perinatal nutrition program, expecting mothers like Ani learn what foods will best build their health through pregnancy and beyond. Last year, 88 healthy babies were born to moms in the program, and 100% of participants found support in new friends made there. And The Stop's peer advocates work hard to offer support in the Advocacy Office -- last year community members made 2,200 visits to the office, accessing the resources and referrals they needed to address issues in their lives. 

A few blocks northeast at the historic Wychwood Barns is The Stop’s Green Barn, a sustainable food production and education centre that houses a state-of-the-art 3,000-sq. ft. greenhouse, food systems education programs, a Global Roots garden, and a compost demonstration initiative.
 

Where the Community Food Centre model took root

For over 30 years, The Stop has been at the forefront of dignified, innovative programs that provide access to healthy food; build skills, health, hope, and community; and confront the underlying issues that lead to poverty and food insecurity. From its origins as one of Canada's first food banks, The Stop transformed into a thriving and welcoming space where people take part in programs that build health, belonging, and community.  The Stop is Community Food Centres Canada’s founding partner, the place where a community came together and helped the Community Food Centre model take root.