Pop-up Containerized Food Court is A Vision of Social Entrepreneurship

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Toronto has a reputation for street food: It's awful and boring, limited by the Health Department to virtually nothing but sausages. Everything related to food and public space is micro-managed, which led to the total failure of the last administration's attempt to introduce food carts with a range of different foods. That's why Market 707 is such a surprise, such a rarity in a city of control freaks. That it exists at all is a wonder.

Market 707 is a project of the Scadding Court Community Centre, which had a drab concrete wall along a major main street, across from a busy hospital; there are a lot of people around. It is also a very mixed neighbourhood, with new immigrants cheek by jowl with gentrifiers. The vision includes:

Social Entrepreneurship and Community Economic Development
-Provide a hub for local business owners to vend their products in a prime downtown location.
-Meet product gaps through the sale of products not generally available in the neighbourhood.
-Support small scale and social enterprise by supporting up and coming entrepreneurs who face challenges accessing existing systems (e.g. youth and newcomers).

Food Security and Urban Agriculture
-Increase access to affordable, healthy food through the sale of organic produce and products.
-Promote local produce through a seasonal farmers’ market, and build relation ships between local farmers, existing vendors and the community.
-Promote local food action initiatives, urban agriculture and community gardening.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I visited on the weekend for a Street Food Fest, where a number of food trucks joined the party. It was exciting; in good old staid Toronto, one could eat Indian, Japanese, Korean, North African, French and more. On the street!

To help others build their own modular markets, the SCC has produced a manual that tells you what to do and what to watch out for, how to navigate the health and building regulations. It is a real eye-opener; this is not just a matter of dropping a few shipping containers. They are not renting to experienced operators either; vendors chosen so far have been one or more of these criteria:

Be a newcomer to Canada;
Be a youth under age 30 years;
Be a first-time business owner;
Employ local newcomers or youth;
Looking to test a new product.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

To manage to work through the byzantine Toronto health, business and planning rules to put together an operation like this, and then make a success out of it with young, inexperienced operators is really impressive. Not only that, it is delicious and fun.

Really useful stuff to be found in Market 707 Developers Manual

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Tags: Food Security | Toronto | Urban Life

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