A group of advocates wants to open a permanent produce market in Moss Park in the New Year to ensure healthy food options are available in the low-income community.
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A pop-up market in the park earlier this year was met with great enthusiasm by the community. Now, healthy food advocates are trying to raise the $30,000 needed to make it a permanent fixture.
Lisa Kates, founder of the community group Building Roots, says the money would allow for a shipping container fitted with insulation and hydro that would be set up in the park to host the market. Kates wants the market to open by the end of January and run three times a week.
Kates noted that few services or events are available in Moss Park, so much so that a resident once told her that it's like the community is invisible.
"That area needs the support," Kates told CBC's Metro Morning. "There's no grocery store within walking distance, which makes it difficult especially for seniors in the area to get access to fresh food."
The rising cost of food is of particular concern to community advocates. A report issued this week by the University of Guelph's Food Institute estimated that the average Canadian household spent an additional $325 on food this year. That could go up to $345 in 2016, the report said.
The cost of produce will hit consumers particularly hard. Because 81 per cent of fruits and vegetables consumed in Canada are imported, their costs are impacted by currency fluctuations. Prices could go up by as much as 4.5 per cent, the report said.
Meat prices, which rose by five per cent last year, could rise another 4.5 per cent in 2016, while prices of fish and seafood could increase by 3 per cent.
Priorities are different
In addition to higher prices, a lack of education about healthy food impacts lower income residents the most, Kates said.
"A lot of people are engaged with food, reading about trends, et cetera, but all that becomes much harder when you're marginalized and you have to prioritize things differently," Kates said.
To that end, the market will also host educational seminars from nutritionists and chefs who can also teach cooking skills.
Hayley Lapalme, a freelance sustainable food systems facilitator, helps clients such as the City of Toronto and various schools use their purchasing power to secure better prices for fresh foods. She believes that institutions can be leaders in making good food more widely accessible.
But like individual consumers, institutions are trying to do more with less. In some schools, Lapalme says, as little as 17 cents is spent per meal per child.
However, places like schools need to think more holistically about food and its role in people's health and education. She helps facilitate pilot projects whereby groups band together to use their mass purchasing power to secure lower prices.
As for the Moss Park market, Kates says the focus will be on affordability for customers and so she doesn't expect the enterprise to turn big profits.