The Ride for Real Food 2015

Amy Ness

Amy Ness will be riding with Team “Co-Op Cred” in the Ride for Real Food this Sunday

The Ride for Real Food 2015: Meet Team “Co-op Cred”

Story and Photos by Sonya Allin

Last year, I rode with about 60 other riders in the Ride4RealFood (R4RF), a unique fundraising event that allows low-income Torontonians to learn food-industry skills and access healthy food through a program called Co-op Cred. The Co-op Cred program is an innovative partnership between West End Food Co-op (WEFC), Greenest City and the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC); it supports work placements that are paid in credit at the WEFC store. Last year, I rode with Eugene Hennie, one of the program’s very first beneficiaries; we had a fantastic time that involved a couple of flat tires, a tow from friends, exposure to nature, and a fresh local meal at a fantastic farm incubator called McVean.

This year, thanks in part to the success of last year’s R4RF, the Co-op Cred program has grown significantly. The number of credit recipients has quadrupled, thereby creating more meaningful work placements at the Sorauren Farmer’s Market, in the WEFC kitchens and in community gardens around Parkdale. There are still more people that are both eligible and eager to access the program, however, which has inspired several Co-op Credit alumni to join this year’s R4RF ride which takes place this Sunday (September 13th). I had a moment to sit down with Amy Ness, Leslie Miller and Eugene Hennie, members of the R4RF’s “Co-op Cred” 2015 Team, to talk about their Co-op Cred experience and their hopes for this year’s ride.

What brought you to the Co-op Cred Program?

Leslie: Up until 2008 I was employed. A lot of people don’t realize that many of us, in the past, had employment. I retired in 2008 because of health reasons but most of my life I was working. A lot of members of PARC who are unemployed or unemployable … we have to feed them, because they are living in poverty. This is why we need programs like Co-op Cred.

What do you do for the Co-op Cred Program?

Leslie: I used to work at the Sorauren Farmer’s Market. Right now I’m just a relief person for when someone can’t make it.

There are lots of work choices in the Co-op Cred program, actually. You can work in the WEFC store in the kitchen or as a stock person; you can work in promoting the Co-op Cred program, you can work gardening with Greenest City, oryou can work at the Farmer’s Market. And you can volunteer here at PARC.

Amy

Drawing of Amy by Diana McNally.

Amy: I am a garden participant; I go in and I get my hands dirty and I get co-op credit [in return]. We deliver [the food we produce] to the Parkdale Community Food Bank. Last year grew tomatoes, zucchinis, and watermelon. This year we have squash, herbs, lettuce, beets and radishes.

It’s hot work but it’s lovely. It gives you a sense of community. If you’re feeling isolated and you work with people gardening, it builds you up. When you have things that are getting you down, [the garden] builds morale.

I use my Co-op Credits to buy things like kale, wheat bran, cheddar cheese, lots of veggies. I’m trying to be healthy!

Leslie: I used to work at the Sorauren Farmer’s Market. Right now I’m just a relief person for when someone can’t make it.

There are lots of work choices in the Co-op Cred program, actually. You can work in the WEFC store in the kitchen or as a stock person; you can work in promoting the Co-op Cred program, you can work gardening with Greenest City, or you can work at the Farmer’s Market. And you can volunteer here at PARC.

Members of the Co-op Cred Program

Members of the Co-op Cred program work for PARC, the West End Food Coop and in Greenest City’s community gardens (above). Photo by Monique Kelemen.

Why are you riding this year?

Amy: I ride because I want to contribute to our goals and it’s fun. We’d love to have more people involved in the Co-op Credit program. And you get to cycle out to McVean Farms. I want to try and raise $600; I’ve raised $300 so far.

Leslie: I’m doing the ride because I want to do something on the front lines [for the Co-op Credit program] and raise money. We’ve already expanded [the Co-op Credit Program] from 7 people to 28. We’re trying to expand it more. Eventually we’d like to be able to pay everyone that volunteers here at PARC something.

Also, from reading the article about Eugene last year, I know it’s going to be a really fun day. Getting out into nature will be really good. I’m a city guy but every once in awhile I want to get out of the city. I’m also looking forward to the hamburgers.

I’m going to make my goal $1200 because there are 12 steps in recovery and 12 is my favourite number.

Eugene Hennie

Tell me about your bike. Are you, and it, ready for the ride?

Amy: My bike is good; it’s a nice little bike and I have a basket on it. I have one of these old vintage bike seats.
Last year I didn’t know if I could do the ride; I thought 35 km was a lot! But it wasn’t bad at all and it was a pretty easy ride. There’s a repair guy on the ride; he has a repair kit; he’ll blow up your tires. Last year I had a flat tire and he worked on it. And at the end there are trucks and the truck driver will drive you back to Parkdale. A lot of people help you out!

Leslie: My bike is from one of my neighbours. Right now it has flat tires and the breaks need to be fixed and the gears need to be fixed. It needs a lot of work, that bike.

I’m less than two months away from 60-years-old. I have not ridden a bike since my mid twenties and I haven’t been on a farm since I was in my teenage years. But I’m going to be riding my bike everywhere [this summer] to get me back into cycling. I think it’s going to be a really cool experience!

Leslie Miller is a Co-op Cred participant and a member of The Dream Team, a Toronto-based advocacy group that works to reduce barriers in the lives of people with mental health and addiction issues. You can learn more about Leslie’s amazing work with the group here. Click here to support his ride.

Amy Ness is a Co-op Cred participant and an ambassador for the Parkdale-Activity Recreation Center (PARC); she works to bring awareness about issues of poverty and oppression in the Parkdale community. She is also a reflexologist and volunteer beat reporter with CHRY radio, where she covers stories about oppression, health and the environment. Click here to support her ride.

Eugene Hennie is a Co-op Cred participant and has been a member of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) since 2011. He’s also a PARC ambassador; his role is to tell the community at large about PARC and its services. A link to his gardening blog can be found here. Click here to support his ride.

Diana McNally is an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer based out of Toronto. She is committed to community work as well as her two cats. She has also made some AMAZING drawings for dandyhorse in the past, including this wicked one of fashion icon Catherine Baba riding her bike.http://www.diana-mcnally.com

 

You can participate in this year’s R4RF, too! Click here to learn about the ride and how you can sign up.

R4RF Bike

 

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Ride4RealFood recap

Ride 4 Real Food

Fines for ‘dooring’ and distracted driving set to increase

 

 

 

 

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