By Emily Van Halem
Photos by Nathan Payne
Earlier in September, I introduced dandyhorse readers to the West End Food Co-op and how this blossoming group is taking its values concerning local food, sustainable transportation, and community-based action and applying them to bikes.
The co-op is implementing a fleet of bicycle delivery trailers to deliver nutritious food to Parkdale residents once they open their storefront at Queen & Dufferin. To raise money to implement a community kitchen space in their new home the co-op organized a bike-a-thon.
Food + bikes + a gorgeous ride up to the Kortright Centre for Conservation? I couldn’t help but sign myself up!
I rustled up donations from friends, donned my cupcake cycling jersey, and hit the trail with an energetic team of cyclists all in support of the West End Food Co-op’s vision for a local, sustainable food system.
We met in the morning at Magwood Park in the Humber valley just north of Bloor Street. The place was already bustling upon my arrival with registration, pre-ride socializing, and last minute bike adjustments thanks to the Bike Pirates. The event was clearly all-ages. While I was probably on the younger end of the peddling riders, participants ranged from children (in bike seats) to a spunky 75 year old woman!
We had a 30k ride ahead of us – perfect for a range of experience levels. The route took us through the meandering recreational trails along the Humber River and on only a few kilometres of road riding on Islington near Steeles. I can now proudly say that I have cycled underneath the 401, which is pretty much as close as I like to get to the highway. Once out of the Humber River trail system, it was rolling hills until reaching the Vaughan-based Kortright Centre. Novice riders took the unexpected inclines in stride as they soon found out that the inevitable descent always made them worthwhile.
Bike-a-thon riders on the final stretch!
In typical West End Food Co-op style, we were met with delicious, homemade food including pizzas baked on site in a wood-fired bake oven. Good, healthy, REAL food was the order of the day with ingredients for our lunch sourced from local farmers, including the Kortright-based Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. that farms 2 acres of mixed vegetables for Toronto farmers’ markets and a CSA.
Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. gave participants a tour of their 2 acre farm located at the Kortright Centre
After the ride, I had a chance to sit down with a few of the riders, including Sheryl Spithoff, a family physician at the Parkdale Community Health Centre. She learned about the co-op when it was announced that her CHC would soon house the co-op’s retail store and kitchen space in their basement. “For the many seniors, newcomers, and families that use our services, having the co-op so close will help improve access to healthy food because it’s often otherwise not available or too expensive.”
The co-op is working hard to meet the diverse needs of the west end community. Working with neighbourhood agencies and funders the retail store will strive to ensure equitable access to healthy, local, and sustainably produced food.
The community cannery workshops continue to attract people and there is growing anticipation for the cooking classes the co-op will run in their new kitchen. All funds raised by the bike-a-thon will go towards paying for the costly renovations that will be required to implement a full-sized kitchen space. Now, with almost $10,000 in the bank thanks to the bike-a-thon, they are definitely on their way to their goal. Donations are still needed for the kitchen project and you can donate online here.
The Fall 2011 issue of dandyhorse magazine is our first Food Issue and features guest editor Bob Blumer of the Food Network. Join us on October 3, 2011 at Parts & Labour in Toronto's west end to celebrate the new issue. We'll be raffling off two brand new Linus bikes: Food Issue Launch Party!