Reflecting On Our Partnership In Food
I want to thank you and the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s (AFC) supporters for the $7,500 grant you gave us and to provide you with an update on our progress.
As you know, the kitchen table means different things to different people. For some, it is a place where family and friends gather, good food is shared, and connections grow. For others, including an increasing number of working poor, it is an emblem of perpetual struggle: the scarcity of good food upon it is a painful reminder of what happens when ends do not meet.
This is the reality for many people in Toronto Community Housing (TCH) neighbourhoods, such as Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park, where three out of five families are unable to consistently put healthy food on the table. There are even more families struggling this year, as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
In 2018, with a passion to serve these communities, Flemingdon Park Ministry (FPM) launched The Common Table with just six raised garden beds. Using land once belonging to the historic Donalda Farm, gifted to us from the Church of Our Saviour in Don Mills, we had one goal: to turn an underutilized expanse of lawn into an urban farm and get healthy produce into the hands of those who need it most.
In 2019, staff and volunteers at FPM tilled the full garden, working tirelessly from seed to harvest to market to table. We boosted the offering with edge-of-the-field pickings from another farmer. As last winter set in, we estimated having touched the lives of more than 1,500 residents in the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park neighbourhoods.
Not surprisingly, in the process of growing food we found ourselves growing community as well. Last year’s gratitude days included games for kids, the exchange of cooking tips and recipe cards, and opportunities to meet new neighbours. With such a diverse group of staff, volunteers, and clients all gathered around this common goal—feeding people and growing healthy food—we had also managed to cut across socioeconomic and cultural lines. We felt the Gospel.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke them. Then He gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. (Luke 9:12)
In 2020, only our second year farming the full tract of land, we have grown enough produce to meet the need. In spite of the immense challenges of running a community outreach on this scale, in the middle of a global pandemic, we are on solid ground.
This season, those of us working in the field have marveled at weekly produce totals weighing as much as 300 pounds. We ask ourselves, “How did we grow all of that on three quarters of an acre?” Every week we are blown away. We look up to heaven and give thanks.
We also look to our many partners, including AFC, and give thanks to you and your supporters for your generosity. Thanks to the AFC grant, we are extending our green house, which will be part of a learning hub partnership with the elementary school located next door to the field. Imagine: children learning hands-on farming skills and how to grow their own vegetables in the heart of an urban landscape. Many of the students are from the TCH community as well, so there’s a sense of coming full circle in our call to serve them.
The Foundation grant will also provide some much-needed heating pads for our greenhouse that will allow us to extend our growing season. Last year we lost the Swiss chard due to a freak snow fall. This year, however, we’re hoping to pot them up and save them.
I’ve been at FPM since 2016, and I can honestly say that we have not been able to keep up with God. We acted on faith with an inspired idea, and God has been opening up doors and opportunities, one after another. We are running to keep up with God. It has been beautiful. It is an incredible gift.
As I said before: we stand in the field, harvesting so much food to distribute to people who need it, look up to heaven, and give thanks.
With blessings and thanksgiving to you and yours,
Executive Director, Flemingdon Park Ministry