What is the West End Food Co-op?
The West End Food Co-op(WEFC) is a multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit co-operative bringing together eaters, workers, farmers, producers, and community partner members. We are dedicated to building local food security by bringing more local food into the west end of Toronto.
We aim to create empowering ways for people to make good food choices by coordinating community-driven food initiatives such as the Sorauren Farmers' Market, the Preserving the Local Harvest Workshops and our co-operative grocery store.
Besides these initiatives, we also run a number of programs focusing on engaging people with local food, ranging from food security to purchasing in bulk directly from our farmers.
What is a Co-op?
A co-operative is a business or other enterprise that is owned and democratically controlled by its members. At the West End Food Co-op each member has one equal vote, no matter what their investment. WEFC is a multi-stakeholder co-op. Our members are workers, farmers and producers, eaters (consumers) and community partners. The community partners are made up of local community organizations who work directly with the diverse populations in our area and ensure their perspective is at the table.
We have an elected Board of Directors who make major decisions on behalf of the co-op’s members. Our Board is comprised of members from each of the different stakeholder member groups. This diversity allows for each stakeholder group of our membership to be involved in the decision-making process.
Quick Co-op Facts
- The co-operative model has proven to be stronger and more resilient than conventional business models, with a survival rate that is almost twice as high as other businesses, when compared after 5 and 10 years of operation.
- Although co-ops are formed to benefit members and the community they are in, they have also created important and powerful businesses in many sectors, including financial services, housing, food, insurance, healthcare and forestry.
- The co-operative sector in Ontario represents $30 billion in assets.
- Some of the larger Canadian co-ops include Mountain Equipment Co-op and GayLea. Desjardins Credit Union is the sixth largest financial institution in Canada.
- In the Maritimes food co-ops control over 12% of the grocery share in the whole region.
- Globally 800 million people are members of co-operatives.
How does the West End Food Co-op make food accessible to the Parkdale Community?
The West End Food Co-operative (WEFC) is an incorporated, not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder co-operative – with eater, worker, farmer and community partner members – committed to the development of community food culture in Toronto’s West End. WEFC acts as a catalyst for local food security by coordinating community-driven food initiatives, such as the Sorauren Farmers' Market. We also have our Co-op Cred program, which provides supportive employment opportunities in exchange for credit to purchase healthy groceries for our Community Partners' members. A bit more about our Farmers' Market and Co-op Cred Program:
Farmers' Market: In 2008, WEFC established a Farmers Market in Sorauren Park that features organic farmers and purveyors from the Greenbelt and the GTA. The Market also seeks to raise public knowledge of food security issues and has a food donation program to ensure excess food from the market is redistributed in the community.
Co-op Cred program: Shortly after the opening of the Food Co-op in 2012, West End Food Co-op began a partnership with Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) that would enable PARC Ambassadors to volunteer at partner organizations in Parkdale, and to be paid in co-op credits, which would be used to purchase groceries at WEFC.
Have you found a new location?
Our 4 years space agreement with Parkdale Community Health Centre expired in 2016 and was extended for an additional 2 years. After four great years of sharing space at the Parkdale Community Health Centre, on July 31st, 2018 the West End Food Co-op closed its store and kitchen. For more information about the closure please visit out Transition page.
What is Preserving the Local Harvest?
Our Social Enterprise Kitchen hosts a wide variety of workshops that teach hands-on fresh food preservation skills. We announce the upcoming workshops in our weekly e-newsletter, and you can sign up for them online. These popular workshops are held year-round, using produce from our producer-members and local farmers who vend at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market. There are also workshops provided to our community partners and other community organizations.
The Co-op Kitchen also runs a Preserving the Local Harvest(PLH) Program. The PLH program works much like a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where participants purchase shares at the start of the season when typically farmers need the most support and then benefit from receiving regular deliveries of produce. In the PLH program, participants pay for their share at the beginning of the season, and come to the Cannery to preserve fresh, local produce and take home their canned goods every few weeks.