Frequently Asked Questions
Got Questions? Check out our FAQ!
We are dedicated to building local food security by bringing more local food into the west end of Toronto. We aim to create empowering ways for people to make good food choices by coordinating community-driven food initiatives such as the Sorauren Farmers’ Market, the Community Cannery and our food co-op grocery store.
Besides these initiatives, we also run a number of programs focusing engaging people with local food, ranging from food security to purchasing in bulk directly from our farmers.
A co-operative is a business or other enterprise that is owned and democratically controlled by its members. At the West End Food Co-op each member has one equal vote, no matter what their investment. WEFC is a multi-stakeholder co-op. Our members are workers, farmers and producers, eaters (consumers) and community partners. The community partners are made up of local community organizations who work directly with the diverse populations in our area and ensure their perspective is at the table.
We have an elected Board of Directors who make major decisions on behalf of the co-op’s members. Our Board is comprised of members from each of the different stakeholder member groups. This diversity allows for each stakeholder group of our membership to be involved in the decision-making process.
QUICK CO-OP FACTS
- The co-operative model has proven to be stronger and more resilient than conventional business models, with a survival rate that is almost twice as high as other businesses, when compared after 5 and 10 years of operation.
- Although co-ops are formed to benefit members and the community they are in, they have also created important and powerful businesses in many sectors, including financial services, housing, food, insurance, health care and forestry.
- The co-operative sector in Ontario represents $30 billion in assets.
- Some of the larger Canadian co-ops include Mountain Equipment Co-op and GayLea. Desjardins Credit Union is the sixth largest financial institution in Canada.
- In the Maritimes food co-ops control over 12% of the grocery share in the whole region.
- Globally 800 million people are members of co-operatives.
For a more in-depth overview, please read “What is a Co-operative” by ON Co-op Association.
The Food Hub is another name for our Food Co-op, located in the Parkdale Community Health Centre. It is a co-operatively owned and operated retail grocery store, providing access to local, fresh food, education, training, and a place for people to connect to their food and each other.
The Co-op Kitchen provides a space for our Community Cannery, a take-out area with fresh food made with seasonal, local ingredients, and food education opportunities. For more information about the Co-op Kitchen, contact our Kitchen Coordinator Sonya Gammal at firstname.lastname@example.org. For inquiries specific to the Community Cannery, please contact our Cannery at email@example.com.
The Store features local, organic, fair-trade and sustainably produced foods. It is a place to for our eater-members to buy their weekly groceries: things like fruit, vegetables, cereal, bread, dairy and meat. A goal of the co-op is to provide our farmer-members an opportunity to grow their farm businesses. As our store grows, and our farmers build capacity to supply the store, we will be carrying more and more of our farmer-members’ products.
Some facts about the store:
- You do not have to be a member to shop at the store
- To become a member, you can fill out a form and pay $5 for a lifetime membership
- Benefits of becoming a member include: being able to take advantage of WEFC’s Monthly Member Specials, saving 15% on your entire purchase in-store on Membership Appreciation Days (every 3rd WEdnesday of the month), having a say in your food system, having a vote at our Annual General Meetings, being able to be voted in to our Board of Directors, ability to join a committee to get more involved with WEFC, and much more!
- You do not have to volunteer or work at the store in order to shop (but you can sign up to volunteer if you wish, we always need volunteers!)
- Prices at the store reflect the real cost of paying local farmers and our staff persons living wages, and therefore will somewhat mid-range between discount grocery stores (e.g. No Frills) and high-end shops (e.g. Whole Foods)
- We are open 7 days a week
- We stock fresh produce, fresh and frozen meats, dairy, eggs, canned goods from our Community Cannery, seasonal and fresh take-out foods made daily in our Community Kitchen, locally produced breads and specialty food products
The West End Food Co-operative (WEFC) is an incorporated, not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder co-operative – with eater, worker, farmer and community partner members – committed to the development of community food culture in Toronto’s West End. WEFC acts as a catalyst for local food security by coordinating community driven food initiatives, such as the Sorauren Farmers’ Market and the food hub which includes a community kitchen and a grocery store that features local, organic and fair trade products. The co-op focuses on creating local food security while providing employment with a liveable wage model. We also have our Co-op Cred program, which provides supportive employment opportunities in exchange for credit to purchase healthy groceries for our Community Partners’ members. A bit more about our Farmers’ Market and Co-op Cred Program:
Farmers’ Market: In 2008, WEFC established a Farmers Market in Sorauren Park that features organic farmers and purveyors from the Greenbelt and the GTA. One of the unique features of the Sorauren Farmers Market is its collaboration with FarmStart, which seeks to act as a catalyzing opportunity for farmers who have recently established their businesses. The Market also seeks to raise public knowledge of food security issues, in part through a Local Food Awareness campaign using popular education and multimedia.
Co-op Cred program: Shortly after the opening of the Food Co-op in 2012, WEFC began a partnership with Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) that would enable PARC Ambassadors to work in certain positions within the co-op, and to be paid in co-op credits, which would be used to purchase groceries at WEFC. This program began as a pilot project, and now entering its 3rd year, has expanded to reach a larger demographic with partnerships alongside the Parkdale Community Health Centre, Greenest City, and Edmond Place.
The Sorauren Farmers’ Market is a place for you to come and get your fresh groceries straight from local farmers and producers. It has been running successfully since 2008 and only grows bigger and stronger. It’s a place to meet friends and gather for an afternoon of live music, kids activities, or to learn bike maintenance skills, and to eat local, fresh, prepared foods. The Sorauren Farmers’ Market is located at Sorauren Park (50 Wabash Ave) and happens from 3-7pm every Monday, all year round. In the wintertime, the market goes indoors to the fieldhouse at the park, and in the summer it is spread further into the field and Town Square. For more information about the Sorauren Farmers’ Market check out our Farmers’ Market page, what’s happening This Week at the Market, our List of Vendors, or contact our Market Coordinator Corry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Community Cannery hosts a wide variety of workshops that teach hands-on fresh food preservation skills. We announce the upcoming workshops in our weekly e-newsletter, and you can sign up for them online. These popular workshops are held year-round, using produce from our producer-members and local farmers who vend at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market. There are also workshops provided to our community partners and other community organizations.
The Community Cannery also runs a Community Supported Orchard (CSO) program. The CSO program works much like a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where participants purchase shares at the start of the season, when typically farmers need the most support, and then benefit from receiving regular deliveries of produce. In the CSO program, participants pay for their share at the beginning of the season, and come to the Cannery to preserve fresh, local produce and take home their canned goods every few weeks.
*Please note that we are no longer selling bonds.
A bond is a low interest loan that members have purchased in order to invest in the co-op. WEFC sold bonds prior to opening the co-op store, as a way to fund our co-op. The first set of bonds were sold in 2009 at $100 increments, and the last campaign saw bonds sold at $500 each – with 2.5% interest, considerably better than a Canada Savings Bond. Each bond had a five or ten-year term; interest began to accrue after two years. Members had purchased up to 2 per person, per calendar year.
Donations of any amount can still be made at any time. Although we are a not-for-profit co-operative, we are not a registered charity and therefore we can not provide charitable receipts at this point. We are currently working on developing a way for donors to receive a tax receipt for their donation via our Co-op Cred program in partnership with PARC. Stay tuned for more details!
*Please note that we are no longer selling bonds.
Purchasing bonds can be thought of in terms of a community supported agriculture (CSA) program: in the start-up stages of the season, participants invest a set amount of money ahead of time in a farm and they are provided with their fresh, local produce, or meats, or cheeses when the harvest and production gets going. With this investment from the community at the most difficult part of the growing season, farmers are given the means to be able to purchase new equipment needed or provide for their families before their crops begin to produce generously. It is often due to this early investment in their business that they are able to provide such abundance and high quality foods for their happy customers, who are then pleased with receiving their delicious returns.
The bonds invested with WEFC went towards start-up costs associated with starting a new business: construction, plumbing, inventory, creating a point of sale system, and developing programs to support a range of accessibility needs – all of these important things were created with the investment from our community. And we hope that the community is pleased with all of the delicious returns we provide as a result!
You can join WEFC and become a member for a $5 lifetime membership fee. WEFC is built upon its members and their input. We currently have over 5,000 members. Members also receive discounts at specific WEFC events (such as our canning workshops), members-only discounts, and they can participate in Membership Appreciation Day (every 3rd Wednesday of the month), where they save 15% on their in-store purchases each month. Becoming a member of WEFC means being a part of a collective of people who are dedicated to creating ways of meaningfully connecting to food, and to the large network of people who are involved in every aspect of putting that food on your plate. Since we are a co-operative, we are essentially run by our members. Each member has a say in how WEFC operates. One way in which members voice themselves is through the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is an elected group of members who include persons from each of the stakeholder member groups of WEFC; we have worker-members, producer-members, eater-members, and community partner-members sitting on our Board and representing the membership at large.
Although the Board makes the big decisions for the co-op, all members do get to have their voices heard. For example, when selecting which items to sell in our Food Hub store, a survey was sent out to our membership asking them to tell us what kind of decisions they would like to see WEFC make to define our Purchasing Policy. This type of feedback is essential to building a co-operative that is created for the community, by the community. We will be working on various ways that members can participate, contribute, and get involved. We are currently developing a forum for our producers to communicate and give input to the co-op. We also have an Annual General meeting where the board selection and other decisions are made.
WEFC is located in the lower level of the Parkdale Community Health Centre at 1229 Queen Street West M6K 1L2, just west of Dufferin Street. You can also find our info table and the Co-op Kitchen vendors’ table at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market (50 Wabash Ave, at Sorauren Ave) every Monday from 3pm to 7pm
We love when people want to get involved with WEFC. There are many ways in which to do so.
Join Us: You can join us by purchasing a $5 membership. Members will be able to shop at the food hub, and get some discounts at certain WEFC events, and you also get the satisfaction of knowing that you belong to a co-operative that’s doing some fantastic work in making healthy food more accessible to west enders.
Donate: We gladly also accept donations to help us along the way. Every donation makes a difference.
Volunteer: Great graphic skills? Like to go to events? or do you prefer simple labour like unloading trucks and moving stuff around? We have a great group of volunteers who help out.. join the fun! Or email us at email@example.com
Sign up for our e-Newsletter: Get the latest updates from us and info about upcoming events.
Visit Us at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market: Drop on by the WEFC info table at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market on Mondays between 3-7pm at Sorauren Park. Come meet some of the WEFC staff and volunteers, learn about why we’re excited to be here, and hear about the latest WEFC news. We’re a friendly bunch of folks, and would really like to meet you.