In 1998, Nick Saul became executive director of The Stop, a small food bank that like many others in Toronto was struggling to provide fresh, nutritious food for its clients. When Saul took over he recognized that a lot of work needed to be done to turn it from a worn-down, last-hope place for many in search of a meal into a thriving community centre for people to not only get a nutritious meal but to learn about food, build skills, and become active participants in their food system. And that is exactly what he did.
The Stop is now an international leader in Community Food Centres. It consists of community gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse, farmer's market, and a mission to change the food system for the better. In his fourteen years at the centre, Nick Saul has become a leader of the food movement and an inspiration to countless others trying to make a difference in their communities.
The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement, by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis, is not just the story of the transformation of the The Stop but a lesson in food politics and why bringing fresh, affordable foods to the table is not as difficult as it may seem.
Food banks were always considered to be a temporary fix for the problem of hunger. They were never meant to become institutions and yet today, record numbers of people are turning to them each month. Anti-poverty activists are making the case that long-term solutions are not found in simply giving people food, but getting the community involved in the food system.
This book chronicles Saul's journey to doing this in a warm and intelligent way. It's not a book that preaches but rather uplifts and inspires. He introduces you to the people who use the food bank and who volunteer there. He shares the heartbreaks and the difficulties of maintaining a functioning food bank that treats its clients with dignity. Saul involved everyone from clients of the food bank to farmers to philanthropists and foundations. What emerged is an organization that boasts a farmer's market, community bake oven, greenhouse that transforms into a five-star restaurant, and a catering company designed to give back to the community through a drop-in food bank, perinatal programs, and food systems education programs.
As someone who is involved in a small-scale community food program, this book is a must-read. It has provided us with a blueprint and inspiration for community food activism. Even for those not involved in such a program, this book inspires you to learn more about the food system and the ways in which every individual can make a difference.
As The Stop website states, "we believe that healthy food is a basic human right. We recognize that the ability to access healthy food is often related to multiple issues andy to just a result of low income. At The Stop, we've taken a holistic approach to achieve real change in our community's access to healthy food." If you ever needed proof that we can alleviate poverty and change our food system at the same time, this book is it.