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The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement
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The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement

by Nick Saul, Andrea Curtis
 

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FINALIST 2014 – Heritage Toronto Award

It began as a food bank. It turned into a movement.
 
In 1998, when Nick Saul became executive director of The Stop, the little urban food bank was like thousands of other cramped, dreary, makeshift spaces, a last-hope refuge where desperate people could stave off hunger for one more day with a hamper

Overview

FINALIST 2014 – Heritage Toronto Award

It began as a food bank. It turned into a movement.
 
In 1998, when Nick Saul became executive director of The Stop, the little urban food bank was like thousands of other cramped, dreary, makeshift spaces, a last-hope refuge where desperate people could stave off hunger for one more day with a hamper full of canned salt, sugar and fat. The produce was wilted and the packaged foods were food-industry castoffs—mislabelled products and misguided experiments that no one wanted to buy. For users of the food bank, knowing that this was their best bet for a meal was a humiliating experience.
 
Since that time, The Stop has undergone a radical reinvention. Participation has overcome embarrassment, and the isolation of poverty has been replaced with a vibrant community that uses food to build hope and skills, and to reach out to those who need a meal, a hand and a voice. It is now a thriving, internationally respected Community Food Centre with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse, farmers’ markets and a mission to revolutionize our food system. Celebrities and benefactors have embraced the vision because they have never seen anything like The Stop. Best of all, fourteen years after his journey started, Nick Saul is introducing this neighbourhood success story to the world.
 
In telling the remarkable story of The Stop’s transformation, Saul and Curtis argue that we need a new politics of food, one in which everyone has a dignified, healthy place at the table. By turns funny, sad and raw, The Stop is a timely story about overcoming obstacles, challenging sacred cows and creating lasting change.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
FINALIST 2014 – Taste Canada Awards—English-language Culinary Narratives Category
FINALIST 2014 – Ontario Library Association Evergreen Award
FINALIST 2014 – Toronto Book Awards

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

“Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis have written a book that is both engaging and inspiring. Weaving the stories of members of the Stop community with observations from as far away as Brazil, they have given voice to the dilemmas that confront the food movement as it tries to respond simultaneously to the needs of poor people, the demands of justice, the fragility of the environment, and rising rates of diet-related disease. I love this book, both for the story it tells and for the spirit of hope and determination that pervades it. All food activists should read it.”
—Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America and Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement
 
“The journey that The Stop has undergone is in many ways the journey that the world food system must undergo. This Community Food Centre has realized that giving food handouts is not enough to durably tackle food poverty. And it has found ways to move beyond this approach and to connect low-income communities with healthy food and empower them to change their lives. The Stop has tackled the multiple, complex causes of food poverty head-on, and its story is therefore one that should be read by everyone who wants to see an end to the inequalities and injustices of the world food system.”
—Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

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

“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
 
“Everyone concerned with the practical realities of fighting hunger needs to read Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis’s brave and important book. In clear and honest prose, they 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
 
“One of the most important things about food is learning to share it. What Nick Saul established with The Stop is a model for challenging the idea of what emergency food for the hungry is and what it can be. Read this extraordinary story of how The Stop created a community and is changing the lives of people, one meal at a time.”
—Bonnie Stern
 

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

“Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis have written a book that is both engaging and inspiring. Weaving the stories of members of the Stop community with observations from as far away as Brazil, they have given voice to the dilemmas that confront the food movement as it tries to respond simultaneously to the needs of poor people, the demands of justice, the fragility of the environment, and rising rates of diet-related disease. I love this book, both for the story it tells and for the spirit of hope and determination that pervades it. All food activists should read it.”
—Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America and Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement
 
“The journey that The Stop has undergone is in many ways the journey that the world food system must undergo. This Community Food Centre has realized that giving food handouts is not enough to durably tackle food poverty. And it has found ways to move beyond this approach and to connect low-income communities with healthy food and empower them to change their lives. The Stop has tackled the multiple, complex causes of food poverty head-on, and its story is therefore one that should be read by everyone who wants to see an end to the inequalities and injustices of the world food system.”
—Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

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

“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
 
“Everyone concerned with the practical realities of fighting hunger needs to read Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis’s brave and important book. In clear and honest prose, they 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
 
“One of the most important things about food is learning to share it. What Nick Saul established with The Stop is a model for challenging the idea of what emergency food for the hungry is and what it can be. Read this extraordinary story of how The Stop created a community and is changing the lives of people, one meal at a time.”
—Bonnie Stern
 
 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307360786
Publisher:
Random House of Canada, Limited
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.26(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

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.”

What People are Saying About This

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

“Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis have written a book that is both engaging and inspiring. Weaving the stories of members of the Stop community with observations from as far away as Brazil, they have given voice to the dilemmas that confront the food movement as it tries to respond simultaneously to the needs of poor people, the demands of justice, the fragility of the environment, and rising rates of diet-related disease. I love this book, both for the story it tells and for the spirit of hope and determination that pervades it. All food activists should read it.”
—Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America and Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement
 
“The journey that The Stop has undergone is in many ways the journey that the world food system must undergo. This Community Food Centre has realized that giving food handouts is not enough to durably tackle food poverty. And it has found ways to move beyond this approach and to connect low-income communities with healthy food and empower them to change their lives. The Stop has tackled the multiple, complex causes of food poverty head-on, and its story is therefore one that should be read by everyone who wants to see an end to the inequalities and injustices of the world food system.”
—Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

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

“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
 
“Everyone concerned with the practical realities of fighting hunger needs to read Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis’s brave and important book. In clear and honest prose, they 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
 
“One of the most important things about food is learning to share it. What Nick Saul established with The Stop is a model for challenging the idea of what emergency food for the hungry is and what it can be. Read this extraordinary story of how The Stop created a community and is changing the lives of people, one meal at a time.”
—Bonnie Stern
 
 

Meet the Author

NICK SAUL 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, an organization that will bring the innovations of The Stop to communities across Canada. www.cfccanada.ca
 
ANDREA CURTIS 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. www.andreacurtis.ca
 
SAUL and CURTIS live with their two boys in Toronto.

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