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  • Written by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis
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How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement

Written by Nick SaulAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Nick Saul and Andrea CurtisAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Andrea Curtis


List Price: $19.95


On Sale: October 01, 2013
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-1-61219-350-2
Published by : Melville House Melville House
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“[A] terrific book about a visionary post–food bank project.” —Michael Pollan


British super chef Jamie Oliver called it "amazing," writing that he'd traveled all over the world and never seen anything like it. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman called it "one of those forward-thinking groups pointing the way to the future of good food." Raj Patel, the critically acclaimed author of Stuffed and Starved, said he was "blown away" by it.

So what is it? The Stop, a Community Food Centre that has revolutionized the way we combat hunger and poverty.

Since community worker Nick Saul became the executive director of The Stop in 1998, it has been transformed from a cramped food bank to a thriving, internationally respected Community Food Centre. The Stop has flourished with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse, farmers' markets and a mission to revolutionize our food system. In a voice that's "never preachy" (MacLean's), Saul and Curtis share what The Stop could mean for the future of food, and argue that everyone deserves a dignified, healthy place at the table.


My hands are covered in toner from our finicky photocopying machine when the garden assistant opens the door, the sounds of the busy street racing inside with her. Everyone in the open space looks up. She’s tanned after a summer in the sun and seems excited.
              “You have to come into the back,” she says. “We’re making callaloo.”
              I’ve never heard the word, but I’m glad of a reprieve from the maddening machine. We head out the door, around the side of the apartment building and into the food bank. Rhonda is inside the community space. With more staff, we’re now able to use it regularly, including for the new community kitchen groups that Rhonda has started.
              A cluster of people is sitting at one of the round tables. And I can see through the small pass-through into the cramped kitchen that there are more inside. The smell wafting out is thick with garlic. We all sit down, and Herman, our garden neighbour, emerges wearing an apron, carrying a tray covered in leafy greens that he’s steamed and cooked with salt fish, garlic, onions, salt and pepper, and sweet red peppers. “Callaloo,” he says proudly.
              Rhonda tells us the story as we take our tentative first bites. One day recently Herman came into the garden and saw some volunteers pulling out what they thought was a weed. “That’s no weed,” he told Rhonda. “It’s callaloo.” So she asked Herman to show everyone how the Caribbean specialty is cooked and eaten, and today a group of volunteers is trying out his favourite vegetable.
              The verdict is good. It looks and tastes a lot like spinach or kale. Herman is pleased, proud to show off his Jamaican roots.
              Rhonda did a bit of digging and discovered that Jamaicans aren’t the only ones who love this plant. People all over the world know it and its different varieties as “amaranth” and eagerly eat the tender leaves, stalks and seeds. She also found that farmers north of the city call one variety of the plant “pigweed” and consider it a scourge. The seeds spread easily in the wind and they struggle to contain it on their farms.
              I look at the faces around the table—Herman and Rhonda; Francesca and Dorino; Gordon, who’s been working at the plot since the first day we dug the fence posts; a woman who lives in a rooming house nearby and suffers from severe diabetes.
              One person’s weed, it seems, is another’s delicacy. In fact, as I’m beginning to realize, food is never just food.
[…]Some people have argued that teaching people to cook from scratch is actually the answer to hunger and poor health in North America. Such cookery advocates argue that cost, or income, is not the major barrier to eating nutritious food. Frugal food bloggers chronicle their attempts to live on a dollar a day; Slow Food USA hosted the $5 Challenge with the cheeky tagline “Take back the ‘value meal.’” Mark Bittman, the celebrated New York Times columnist and cookbook author, writes regularly about health and sustainability as linked to “the all-but-vanished craft of cooking and associated thrift.”
              They’re right, of course. Acquiring food skills is essential for anyone who wants to break the habit of relying on processed food. But for many people at The Stop, like those on low incomes everywhere, it’s not so simple. Lack of income is a major barrier to buying fresh food and making meals out of it. Shopping, prepping and cooking time is often extremely limited for people who might be working several minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet. And many who use our programs don’t even have a stove or a kitchen to cook in. Trying to live on a social assistance check of less than six hundred dollars a month in a rooming house or jammed in with others in a one-bedroom apartment means proper cooking facilities are frequently unavailable.
              And you can’t discount the social exclusion faced by people living in poverty. Sharing a great meal with others can help you feel connected and alive, as it does for Rosa and the rest of the Meals Made Easy crew, but if you’re on your own in a dingy, miserable room, cooking a meal by yourself can simply serve to highlight your solitude.
             While we can’t claim community kitchens—and the food skills learned there—are going to end the poverty or hunger of participants, they can definitely help low-income community members eat more healthily, have greater control over their personal circumstances and break out of their isolation.
              For Rosa and her family, the kitchen was a gateway to The Stop’s other programs. They soon became involved in the Earlscourt garden. Rosa had some farming experience from back home in Italy, and they already grew beautiful roses as well as some vegetables and herbs in their backyard. Their mint even won a gardening contest Rhonda organized. As he’s grown older, Tony has become involved, too. “I have two green thumbs,” he says proudly, holding up his hands.
              “Except when you first started, you couldn’t plant straight,” his mother laughs. “I tell him, ‘Plant it like the CN Tower, not the Tower of Pisa!’”
              Tony shrugs. “Now I know.”
              The Stop has become a huge part of Tony and Rosa’s family life. They volunteer and also drop in for meals, taking part in programs whenever they can. “I was raised in this place,” says Tony, who lives at home and works for a major big box retailer. “I’m one of The Stop kids.”
              Some staff and volunteers, in fact, know Rosa as Mamma. She hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to be a newcomer in the big city and she’s glad to help those people who come from far away and still feel like “little birds.” When she’s introduced to people new to The Stop, those who are scared and nervous and worried about saying the wrong thing, she offers up her big, warm smile and says, “Welcome home.”


The Stop is an inspiring true story about how a low-income neighborhood used good food to take charge of its community—it’s a great lesson for all of us.”
—Jamie Oliver

"The Stop is one of those forward-thinking groups pointing the way to the future of good food.” 

“The riveting inside story of a food bank that through perseverance and principle turned itself into one of our most visionary movements for justice and equality.”
NAOMI KLEIN, author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo
“In clear and honest prose, [Saul and Curtis] share their struggles and hope with plain talk through tough decisions. How better to learn about ending hunger than through the story of a former food bank whose aim was to put itself out of business?”
RAJ PATEL, author of Stuffed and Starved

“This is an important book. The Stop is no ordinary account of the substantial benefits of soup kitchens to servers and served. It is an impassioned account of how to create food systems that foster independence and eliminate the indignities of charity. Saul and Curtis put a human face on poverty. If you want to know what today’s food movement is really about—and why it is anything but elitist—read this book.”  
—MARION NESTLE, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat

“The Stop reads like a compelling novel…but it’s all real. This book enables readers to join the frontier of true democracy, where we hear the voices, smell the aromas, and feel the stories of people creating communities of mutuality. Food becomes the ‘uniter’ of cultures and generations—where each of us feels respect and has voice. Read it and see possibilities for yourself and our world that maybe you’ve never seen before.”
Frances Moore Lappé, author of EcoMind and Diet for a Small Planet
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


"An impassioned account of how to create food systems that foster independence and eliminate the indignities of charity. Saul and Curtis put a human face on poverty. If you want to know what today’s food movement is really about— and why it is anything but elitist—read this book.” —Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, & Public Health at NYU 


British super chef Jamie Oliver called it “amazing,” telling his fans he’d traveled all over the world and never seen anything like it. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman called it, “one of those forward-thinking groups pointing the way to the future of good food.” Raj Patel, critically acclaimed author of Stuffed and Starved, said he was “blown away” by it. 

So what is it? 

The Stop, a Community Food Center that has revolutionized the way we combat hunger and poverty. 

Since community worker Nick Saul became executive director of The Stop in 1998, it has been transformed from a cramped food bank to a thriving, internationally respected Community Food Center. The Stop has flourished with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse, farmers’ markets, and a mission to revolutionize our food system. In a voice that’s “never preachy” (Maclean’s), Saul and Curtis share what The Stop could mean for the future of food, and argue that everyone deserves a dignified, healthy place at the table. 


NICK SAUL (cfccanada.ca/book) was executive director of The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto from 1998 to 2012 and is a recipient of the prestigious Jane Jacobs Prize and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. He is now president and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada, a non-profit organization that will bring the innovations of The Stop to communities across Canada. You can follow Nick on Twitter @njsaul. 

ANDREA CURTIS (andreacurtis.ca) is an award-winning writer and editor. Her family memoir, Into the Blue: Family Secrets and the Search for a Great Lakes Shipwreck, won the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non- Fiction. Curtis’s first children’s book is What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @ AndreaPCurtis. 


A Note from the Authors:

“Our book, The Stop, is about the power of food to transform individuals, communities and the planet. But at its heart it is also the untold story of the inspiring and innovative work of a community-based organization working in a very low income, marginalized neighborhood, and the trials and triumphs of the people who live there. 

Throughout the book, there are the true, often heart-breaking stories of people who come to The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto, folks living on welfare, struggling to get by on minimum wage jobs, women fleeing abusive relationships and forced to chose between feeding themselves or their kids. These are the kinds of stories that rarely get airtime in newspapers and magazines, radio, TV or the internet. 
The stories in The Stop of people finding a dignified, engaged, welcoming community where they can be fully themselves—welfare recipient and gardener, single mom and vocal advocate for increasing minimum wage—is, in our opinion, one of the most important parts of this book. It is important because it gives space and dignity to these unheralded people. But it is also important because their stories—warts and all—are full of hope. 

We believe that one way that we will begin to see change when it comes to hunger and poverty is when the real stories of low-income people and the struggles they face, the challenges they triumph over, the hard-won hope they forge are told. It’s easy to dismiss someone for their ideologically based ideas—they’re “just” ideas, after all. But it’s less easy to dismiss a person’s life, their experience, the intimate, difficult details of who they are, what they care about, what they’ve done. 

We don’t think anyone who reads this book will dismiss the people who allowed their stories to be told here. We hope they understand, as we have come to believe, that telling stories will help to change the world.” 


Guided Reading & Discussion Questions 

Chapter 1: No One Wants a Handout 

1. A common argument against welfare and food banks is that they only serve to enable the laziness of the poor. What are some of the problems with this argument? What other factors might contribute to the difficulty people below the poverty line face in providing for themselves? (page 5) 

2. What are some of the limits of a traditional food bank—a place that hands out food and nothing more—in assisting a community? Brainstorm other services that an ideal food bank might provide, if it had the resources. (page 9) 

3. Why was it important to Saul to change the terminology used to refer to food bank clients from “user” to “member”? Do you agree? page 16-17) 

4. What are some of the difficulties involved in enforcing the policies of a food bank? Is it better to have rules that are strict or more lenient? (page 22-23) 

Chapter 2: Gardens Won’t Save the Planet, But They’ll Make It a Whole Lot Nicer Place to Live 

1. Community gardens contribute relatively little to the cause of ending hunger. So, why are they important? (page 31-32) 

2. Explain the finding that impoverished neighborhoods show higher incidences of low birth weight. What are some of the consequences of low birth weight for the families involved? (page 37) 

3. When talking about the struggles of people who live in the neighborhood, Saul says, “This homelessness is much more hidden—but it’s homelessness all the same.” What does he mean by that? (page 40) 

4. Why does Saul choose to stop giving out super-processed and damaged food? Is this the right strategy to take for feeding the hungry? (page 41) 

Chapter 3: All Good Parties End Up in the Kitchen 

1. What is the problem of the “food desert” one encounters in many urban areas? What challenges does it present for people who live there, and what is The Stop thinking of doing to help? (page 59-60) 

2. How is the “community food security” approach to feeding the hungry different from the standard approach of before? What kind of thinking informed this new movement? (page 63-64) 

3. In the early 1990s, how and why did rural peasant farmer organizations, such as La Via Campesina, resist the efforts of the World Trade Organization to institute global trade rules concerning food, fishing and farming? In their resistance of the WTO, ‘tensions’ developed within these organizations; describe these ‘tensions’ and explain how they’re exemplary of the larger problems faced by the community food security movement generally. (page 65-66) 

4. Saul refers to the American sociologist Janet Poppendieck’s parable of babies floating down a river; what is the significance of this parable and how does it relate to Saul’s opinion of food banks and other charity organizations? (page 76-78) 

Chapter 4: Poverty Is Ruthless 

1. Saul relates the story of Glenn Kitchener, a recovered alcoholic and victim of poverty; in what ways did Glenn’s volunteering at The Stop positively affect his life? (page 85-90) 

2. Saul writes, “That people operate best on their own and that it’s natural, right and inescapable for the fittest to come out on top has become the story of our culture. Accordingly, anyone who’s poor is simply lazy, their circumstances the result of their own failures, even a ‘lifestyle choice.’” What are some of the effects, according to Saul, of this attitude of Social Darwinism? (page 96-98) 

3. Often food bank advocates see a very stark distinction between the everyday task of feeding the hungry and solving larger socioeconomic issues of which hunger is a result. How do Saul and those at The Stop understand this distinction? (page 108) 

Chapter 5: Change Happens Because People Fight for It 

1. There is, according to Saul, a very close relationship between food companies, like General Mills, Kellogg’s and Walmart, and food banks such as the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN). What is the nature of this relationship and why does Saul consider it problematic? (page 124-125) 

2. Describe the importance of the Civic Engagement group; what are its goals and how does it achieve them? Describe the difficulties groups like Civic Engagement have dealing with governments like Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., which place strict limits on charitable organizations. (page 135-138). 

Chapter 6: Build a Big Tent 

1. What is the significance of the farmers’ market in front of St. Michael and All Angels Church? Describe how the finished Green Barn might impact the community. (page 145-146) 

2. Why was there a backlash against the Green Barn project? What were the arguments of the opposing community groups? (page 147-148) 

3. Saul says “Every good idea needs a naysayer. They galvanize people to take action.” Do you agree? Why or why not? (page 148) 

4. Explain the importance of Michael MacMillan and Cathy Spoel to the Green Barn. How did their involvement help the project? (page 152-154) 

5. How has the recent trend of rising interest in food and food-related politics affected The Stop? What are some benefits to this trend? What are the limitations according to Saul? (page 156) 

6. Saul states that the food movement should expand to give low-income people a voice to create a healthier food system. What are some of his reasons for the expansion? What is the place of The Stop within the food movement and the different income classes? (page 157) 

7. What are some of the methods The Stop uses to reach out to kids like Ariana? What is the difficulty against reaching the kids and families who need help in a neighborhood like the one around the Green Barn? How do Saul and his staff try to navigate this difficulty? (page 162) 

8. How does the Global Roots garden give an opportunity to connect across diversity? Explain some potential impacts the Global Roots garden may have on the community. (page 165-166) 

9. Do you agree with Saul’s stance that The Stop’s role is “being always available, making sure people know we’ll be responsive and nonjudgmental when they turn to us?” What are some potential effects of acceptance versus judgment? (page 168) 

10. What’s the main difference between The Stop’s Good Food Market and the Green Barn’s farmers’ market? (page 172) 

11. What is the YIMBY initiative? What do it and similar initiatives hope to achieve? (page 173) 

Chapter 7: Eat the Math

1. What was the point of the Do the Math website? What did it show regarding cost of living versus social assistance received? What does it hope to achieve? (page 178-179) 

2. How did the Put Food in the Budget (PFIB) campaign team up with The Stop’s Do the Math campaign? What was their approach to raise political awareness of the disparities of living cost versus social assistance? (page 180) 

3. How does the Eat the Math campaign hope to expand on the Do the Math groundwork? What are some methods for keeping the Eat the Math program grounded, rather than becoming “an elaborate piece of performance art?” (page 181) 

4. What are some of the effects Andrea and Nick feel during their Eat the Math week? What are the effects reported by other participants? What particular difficulties does Naomi Klein face? (page 190-192) 

5. Saul says “it’s not just wrong that so many people are hungry, isolated, depressed and unhealthy… it’s immoral.” Do you agree? How might viewing the food needs of the impoverished as a morality issue affect its reception among the higher-income public? (page 194) 

6. The Eat the Math program, using celebrities and other privileged people to speak out for those without privilege, could potentially be seen as “deny[ing] the voices of those with real experience.” What is Saul’s justification for his approach? (page 195-196) 

7. What do the breakout groups in the Eat the Math audience come up with as potential methods to bring attention to the inadequacy of social assistance rates? What are the potential strengths and weaknesses of these methods? Brainstorm some of your own solutions. (page 197) 

Chapter 8: The Power of Food 

1. The New Farm’s “modus operandi” is “making a case for the productive possibilities of small-scale family farms and the importance of acknowledging the real cost of food.” What does this mean? What are some of the real costs of food? (page 201) 

2. How does Grow for the Stop allow New Farm produce to reach low-income people in need? (page 202) 

3. What are some wider repercussions of the relationship between The Stop and The New Farm? What connections can be drawn between farmers and low-income communities? (page 204-205) 

4. How is the Brazilian government drawing together low-income communities and local farms? How do their methods support government strategies? (page 205-206) 

5. How is Local Food Plus (LFP) attempting to support local procurement of food? What methods does it use to encourage commitment? (page 206) 

6. What was the reasoning behind Saul’s refusal of donated land off of highway 401 for another organic urban farm? Do you agree with the reasoning? (page 212) 

7. The neighborhood of West Oakland has fresh food markets that accept SNAP benefits alongside other food projects, but still falls under the “food desert” definition. What happened to cause this disparity? (page 214) 

8. The food movement conversation in Canada centers mainly around food banks, while in parts of America, the “fight for justice” is more prevalent. Describe how this difference plays out in the debate of food issues. (page 217) 

9. What is Saul’s view on small, community organizations and their effect on the process of changing the farther-reaching problems of the food system? Explain how The Stop is attempting to circumnavigate these potential effects. (page 217-218) 

Chapter 9: The Revolution Must Be Funded 

1. How has Chris Brown’s work with The Stop helped grow the project? (page 224-225) 

2. Other nonprofits run programs focused on training low-income people to earn money through making food or crafts. The Stop, on the other hand, focuses on simply raising money to go back into the food programs. What are some of the benefits Saul outlines with this approach? Do you agree with his assessment of community growth versus community center flexibility? (page 226-228) 

3. The Stop is mainly supported through private funds instead of government grants. Where does private funding usually fall short? What does Saul find to be some of the downsides of receiving government funding? (230-232) 

4. Discuss the reasoning behind nonprofits accepting money from corporate entities with questionable or disagreeable practices. Should funding be considered morally tied to its contributor, or as separate from its source? (page 233) 

5. The “Nourish” product from Campbell attempted to “put a serious dent in hunger,” but fell short in several ways, as pointed out by Put Food in the Budget (PFIB). What are some of the issues raised by PFIB with the Nourish campaign? (page 234-235) 

6. How does The Stop navigate finding support without compromising integrity? What factors have contributed to its ability to do so? (page 237) 

7. Pathways to Education provided incentive for kids to stay in school. What was the social return on investment from the kids in the program found by The Boston Consulting Group? What economic benefits occur from children continuing education? (page 240-241) 

Chapter 10: Food is a Public Good 

1. What does Saul feel is “the major fault line in the debate about our food system?” Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not? (page 261) 

2. What is a “food citizen?” (page 264) 

3. What are some of Saul’s ideas to “move beyond the individual” and create “the kind of food system we’d all like to see?” What needs have to be met to fulfill those ideas? (page 266) 

4. What is Zundre raMambo? Where did it originate? (page 274)

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