From food bank and pre- to post-natal program to all encompassing community advocacy and food center, this tells the amazing story of how people wanted a hand up, not a hand out and the steps they took to create a sustainable community in the midst of poverty. “The Stop; How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement” by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis.
Ever since reading “The Power of Half” I’ve changed my passion for volunteering from charitable giving to sustainable change. It’s important that we give each other tools, skills, and encouragement to succeed instead of just giving material items and money. The Stop was created many years ago as a food bank in a financially poor area of Toronto, Canada. Food banks were created in the 1900’s as temporary aid, but have become an expected part of our society to assist the millions living in poverty. However wonderful an idea, they are in fact a band-aid and don’t target the root of why people need food assistance on such a regular basis.
Change began to happen when new management was hired in 1998. One main reason that spurred the change was the food being offered. Have you ever donated food before? Did you donate fresh veggies and highly nutritional foods like you buy for your own family or did you donate cheap carbs, sugar laden treats, and almost expired or dented canned food? Realizing that the food given to people living in poverty, who have little if any other choices, was actually contributing to illnesses such as diabetes and obesity it was clear that the food bank wasn’t living up to its promise of providing good food for those who need it most and that it could do a whole lot more than give out a box of food each month.
In the past 15 years they expanded from a small food bank and pre- to post-natal program to include gardens, a greenhouse, advocacy workshops, after school programs, a farmers market, ethnic cooking classes for the large immigrant portion of their community, and a resource center suporting various social issues. The Stop has become a community that values food as an important part of culture. They see food as an interconnected system that includes people, health, the environment, and economics; not a commodity that Big-Ag can market and sell without concern of our worlds welfare. My favorite part of this book is how they incorporated community activism workshops that enabled people affected by poverty to speak out and effecively work for change in policy. This isn’t a book about saviors coming from above, but people taking actions to pull themselves out of poverty and putting sustainable change in the spotlight.
This wasn’t a smooth process; long-term volunteers intent on giving a hand out were not ready for the change of offering a hand up, financing for healthier food wasn’t readily available, and a small staff meant hard work and long hours. What it took was several years, a lot of energy put into fundraising, passionate dedication, and a determined community ready to create a better life. Change didn’t happen overnight, real long-term change rarely does, but it did happen and this book is an incredible guide to how other communities can implement similar strategies for healthier communities. Learn more at TheStop.org
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