Co-op cred program is a community food security accessibility tool based on an alternative currency model that facilitates low-income people’s participation in the healthy and economic benefits of local, organic, and sustainable food. Community members engage in volunteer activities at community organizations like West End Food Co-op and Greenest City and receive co-op creds in return while also enabling them to develop employment skills and accumulate additional wealth regardless of social assistance restriction. Currently, we are developing and implementing a pilot project with PARC Ambassadors program to see how this idea unfolds in practice and to gauge the possibility of expanding the program to include more community members at large.
On February 13 2013, we had the first orientation session at West End Food Coop. Sasha and Ayal from WEFC gave an orientation to 5 PARC Ambassadors who will work at the WEFC site as kitchen assistants, floor assistant, and produce assistant. The orientation covered not only what activities the PARC ambassadors will perform but also the philosophy behind the WEFC, its programming, and its relation to the Co-op cred program.
A detailed story about the WEFC can be found in ‘About Us‘ from their website, but what sparked PARC ambassadors’ interests most was WEFC’s attempt to bridge the urban and rural as a multistakeholder co-operative whose members include eaters (consumers) producers, workers, and community partners.
The WEFC attempts to address issues of urban hunger and rural poverty together that are often debated separately. For example income is an issue for most people’s access to healthy local food in urban settings, but at the same time farmers and producers are also facing declining income challenges because of policy changes that negatively affect their farming, an unsustainable food system, and development pressures that threaten farming lands in Ontario. So, WEFC is working with farmers and local producers to pay ‘fair’ prices for their produces. But ‘fair’ prices may not be always accessible to everyone. Here the co-op cred proram comes in as pat of strategies making local healthy food accessible to everyone.
Reflecting on their public engagement work on Edmond Place, Ambassadors were very excited about the idea behind the co-op and got very keen on supporting and spreading their activities. They hope to learn more about the co-op by directly engaging in their work, while developing public speaking and engagement skills through the Ambassadors program.