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.
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.
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