Toronto

Summer Produce Market brings fresh Ontario fruits and veggies to Toronto — for free

It's a world-class farmers' market without the considerable price tag that can often accompany fresh fruits and vegetables.

Daily Bread Food Bank will run markets in 14 Toronto communities this summer

Daily Bread Food Bank launched its second annual Summer Produce Market in Scarborough on Saturday. The program brings fresh Ontario produce and food products to TCH residents for free. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Daily Bread Food Bank launched its second annual Summer Produce Market on Saturday in Scarborough.

The initiative brings fresh Ontario produce and other food products to Toronto Community Housing residents free of charge.

It's a world-class farmers' market without the considerable price tag that can often accompany fresh fruits and vegetables.

"It's summertime and the kids are at home, and you keep shopping always," said Rita Majemite.

"When you have the opportunity to do this, you have to do it. Because it's fresh, you have protein, vitamins and everything."

Rita Majemite said it can be extremely expensive to feed her three children when they are all home during the summer. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Daily Bread Food Bank started the program last summer. Farmers and food sellers in Ontario donate product that would typically not make it to market, or would otherwise go to waste. 

The not-for-profit organization says it will offer more than 110,000 kilograms of produce to 14 different communities throughout the growing season. 

Neil Hetherington, CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank, said that food insecurity is a persistent problem throughout the city. The organization is "strategically picking enclaves of Toronto Community Housing that we feel have the greatest need," he told CBC Toronto.

Neil Hethering, CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank, said the organization will run the markets in 14 Toronto communities this summer. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

William Mendes, who works with TCH's tenant community services department, said that inequitable access to healthy food "is a major issue for people living in social housing.

"It's been listed as a number one priority in many of our communities."

According to the federal government, as many as one in eight Canadian households currently experience some form of food insecurity, which it defines as being "without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food."

William Mendes, who works with TCH's tenant community services department, said food insecurity is consistently a front-of-mind issue for the organization. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

In their 2019 budget, the federal Liberals committed to spending $134.4-million over five years to help communities tackle food insecurity. 

Earlier this week, Feed Ontario (formerly known as the Ontario Association of Food Banks) published an interactive map highlighting food bank use across the province, broken down by electoral ridings. The organization says that in 2018, Ontario's food banks were accessed by 507,977 people, who visited over three million times during the course of the year.

Feed Ontario says it wants to pressure governments to more adequately address hunger and food insecurity in communities across Ontario.

In the shorter-term, the Summer Produce Markets initiative hopes to give Toronto access to healthy options for themselves and their families.

On Saturday, residents said the market is a great start.

"I like this because you're able to come and get what you need, especially when you're between cheques," said Ellen Churcher, a senior who lives on a fixed income. 

With files from Talia Ricci

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