What’s On at the Saturday Farmers Market in December
This month, we spoke with one of our vendors, Community Fridges Toronto, about their initiative and giving back this holiday season.
Published on November 24, 2021
Have you spotted a brightly painted refrigerator or two around Toronto? If yes, they were most likely a part of the Community Fridges Toronto (CFTO) initiative, which aims to help provide food for people in need in the community.
The idea is that fridges and pantries are located across different neighbourhoods in Toronto, they’re filled with food, and those struggling with food insecurity can easily access this food.
The fridges and pantries operate under a “take what you need, leave what you can” philosophy, whereby the food items can be taken at any time of day, no questions asked.
Market updates this month
With Christmas Day and New Year's Day falling on Saturdays, we are instead running mini-markets on Wednesday, December 22 and Wednesday, December 29 from 3-7pm.
Due to the nature of the indoor space, capacity will be significantly lower than the outdoor market.
Why was CFTO created?
The initiative was created by Jalil Bokhari and Julian Bentivenga out of the desire to do something about the increasing amount of food insecurity that the COVID-19 pandemic had led to. Many people lost their jobs during this time and often did not know where their next meal would come from.
Bokhari and Bentivenga stocked a minifridge with surplus produce and put it outside their restaurant, Ten (1132 College St.). In the following months, other small businesses volunteered to set up their own fridges and stocked them with food, and eventually the volunteer base grew to what it is today. 1132 College St., is still one of the locations where you can find a community fridge.
In an interview with Canada Post, Bentivegna stated, “What I really like about these fridges is that they prove that food shouldn’t be a privilege. It’s just an inherent right. It’s a respect thing and everybody should have access to healthy food.”
How does it work?
CFTO is able to operate because of all the volunteers and community members who keep the fridges clean and organized, running, and stocked full of food.
When we spoke with a volunteer at CFTO, they mentioned that the volunteers are in a group chat where they regularly communicate and post schedules for site checks, cleanings, and removal of expired food. If you would like to volunteer with CFTO, you can fill out this form.
They also noted that support for the initiative has been remarkable throughout the pandemic. They’ve had many people that drop of an item or two to the fridges and pantries on their way home from the grocery store. There are also organizations that do regular drops of meals and food items.
Information on what can/can’t go in the fridges and pantries can be found in the Instagram post below.
How can you help?
CFTO has a table at the Saturday Farmers Market at Evergreen Brick Works, where you can drop off food items. Volunteers then take all that is collected at the market, separate the food items and place them in the community fridges and pantries across the city.
You can also drop off food to any of the 8 community fridges and pantries across Toronto. Additionally, CFTO has a Go Fund Me where they are raising money for the construction of protective shelters on their new and existing fridges sites so that they can operate in the coming winter months.
Our goal is to make the community fridges and pantries more accessible for everyone.