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Toronto Food Policy Council Meeting: Market City

Toronto Food Policy Council Meeting: Market City
The NRC would like to thank Registered Dietitian Joanna Stochla,  a dietetic student from the Masters of Applied Nutrition program at the University of Guelph, for this post about her experience on a tour of a few of Toronto’s food markets.

On July 13, 2016, Registered Dietitians, Donna Smith and Joanna Stochla from the Nutrition Resource Centre had the exciting opportunity to join the Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) on a walking tour of a few of Toronto’s food markets. Despite the record breaking high temperatures, you could say it was overall a very “cool” experience for everyone who took part in the tour.

The tour began at Ryerson University Farmers Market, which houses over a dozen vendors- Wednesdays from 11 AM – 2 PM between May and October. This program began as a pilot project in 2013, organized by Apple Tree Markets, and has been very successful. Ryerson Farmer’s Market features a variety of local foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables from the market’s highlight, Ryerson Urban Farm. This student-run urban farm is situated upon the roof of a Ryerson University campus building in downtown Toronto and provided 8000 lbs of fresh produce in 20151.


Marina Queirolo, a TFPC member and Food Program Manager at Evergreen Brickworks, recapped the history of Toronto’s markets, also known as “Market City", and discussed the importance of food markets in a community. Marina explained that not only do food markets promote healthy eating by increasing access to healthy food, they also reduce social isolation, make our city safer, and promote entrepreneurship. However, the viability of markets is also challenged with many barriers, such as lack of funding, training, limitations around the number of vendors, and push-back from other grocery retailers external to the markets.  Marina urges the city to recognize the powerful role of markets to enhance the economic and social development in neighborhoods.

The next stop of the tour was visiting Moss Park Market. The Moss Park Market began as a pilot project through Building Roots, which uses two fully outfitted shipping containers to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the community year round. The tour group was greeted by the market’s permanent vendor, Walli, who served us juicy watermelon and mango, which was the perfect remedy for a blistering hot day. Walli, who is a well-known resident in the Moss Park Community because of his local business called the Arman Market, is very passionate about providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the residents as it helps to build the community.


Lisa Kates and Darcy Higgins, Building Roots Partners and the leaders of the pilot project, are very enthusiastic about this unique market. Not only does the market stand out for the incredible design on the containers, but Lisa and Darcy state that it helps make the area busier and adds visibility in the neighborhood so that residents feel safer. This market also brings the food to them year round at an affordable cost, whereas, residents once had to take public transit to obtain fresh produce from the most affordable grocery stores. “Instead of spending their money on transportation, they can spend that money on local fruits and vegetables” Walli enthusiastically points out. The market partners with Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), who provides free property space and electricity to operate the market. Walli explains that “this is a ╩╣win-win’ for TCHC because it adds security to the community,” and the reduced costs to operate are passed on to residents by permitting the foods to be sold below market value. Lisa and Darcy hope that the concept of Moss Park Market will serve as a model that can be duplicated and rolled out into other communities.

Walli, the permanent vendor, standing proudly in front of the brand new Moss Park Market.

Our final stop on the food market tour was the one and only, St. Lawrence Market.  This historical market is known, not only for being one of the oldest food markets in North America, but has been ranked the number one food market in the world according to National Geographic in 20122. Sarah Corey and Samantha Wiles, from Real Estate Services, offered an informative tour of the market and provide insight as to the success of St. Lawrence Market. Sarah states that one reason for the market’s popularity is that it has “a natural mix of vendors” and can be considered a “one-stop-shop” due to the diverse range of products. It is also home to the famous peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery, which Toronto mayor, John Tory, recently unveiled as “Toronto’s signature dish”. Whether you are looking for good food, a friendly atmosphere, or rich history, St. Lawrence Market will have something for you.

The opportunity to visit a few of the markets in Toronto and speak with individuals who radiate enthusiasm when discussing food markets was incredible.  As a registered dietitian, who is passionate about nutrition and promoting healthy eating, it was amazing to learn about the important roles that markets play in our cities – historically, socially and economically. Not only do food markets help increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, but they help our communities become safer, richer in culture, more economically viable, and build relationships among residents.

If you are interested in getting involved to support and improve the food market scene in Toronto, please contact Jessica Reeve at jreeve2@toronto.ca.
1Will Sloan. A green-roof oasis. Ryerson Today, May 2016. Available from:  http://www.ryerson.ca/ryersontoday/data/news/2016/05/20160506-a-green-roof-oasis.html
2CBC News. St. Lawrence ranked world’s best food market. April, 2012. Available from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/st-lawrence-ranked-world-s-best-food-market-1.1288114


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