Our series of Toronto Book Awards reviews continues. Kim MacMullen is reading and reviewing each of the finalists for this year’s Toronto Book Awards, which will be awarded on October 16, 2014.
Today Kim reviews The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis (Random House Canada). Nick and Andrea will be reading at the The Word On The Street on September 21st, at 12:30 PM and again at 5:00 PM at the Toronto Book Awards Tent.
Co-written by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis, The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement recounts Saul’s 14-year mission to transform The Stop, a long-standing food bank in Davenport West, into a community food centre. Detailing the successes, set-backs, and philosophical shifts of the centre itself, The Stop also outlines the need for an overhaul of how we think about hunger, poverty, and assistance, and a shift away from the now-entrenched food bank system. While genuine in their intentions, food banks were always meant to be a temporary solution to the hunger crisis. Saul and his team at The Stop knew there was a better way.
Beginning his career as a community organizer, Saul was hired as the Executive Director of Stop 103, known in the community as The Stop, in 1998. Then primarily a food bank that also ran a health and nutrition program for low-income pregnant women, The Stop had a difficult time keeping up with the demand of their neighbourhood, and faced the same problems as many other food banks—under-staffing, under-funding, difficulties procuring donations, and low-quality food. Saul saw an opportunity to focus less on handouts and more on community building, education, and outreach, creating an inviting space for neighbours to share their knowledge and good, delicious, healthy meals. Over the next 14 years, The Stop would undergo dramatic changes, including the addition of a community garden, the creation of cooking programs, children’s programs, a second location, food enterprise programs and catering services for fund-raising, drop-in meals, and advocacy programs that assist community members with issues ranging from finding affordable housing to seeking language education programs, jobs, crisis assistance, and more. Many members of The Stop also went on to become volunteers and even paid employees of the centre, sharing the assistance and sense of community from which they themselves had benefitted.
The United Nations recognizes access to food as a human right—Saul wants it to be so much more. Cooking and eating are communal activities, and bringing a community together to share in the preparation and enjoyment of their food cultivates pride, celebration, and accomplishment, something that everyone can agree is more human and sustaining than dented tins of pork and beans. The Stop is written in a show-not-tell style, taking the reader by the hand and leading them through the long and continuing evolution of The Stop’s philosophies, programs, and practices. Aspirational but not preachy, informative but not pedantic, Saul and Curtis clearly lay out the beginnings, progress, and future plans for the movement, seemingly hoping to lead by example rather than by guilt in the fight to end hunger. It is also written with obvious gratitude to the volunteers, staff, and community members who made and continue to make The Stop and other community food centres possible and tells their stories alongside Saul’s own, making The Stop, just like its namesake, a community project far more than an individual effort.
Kim MacMullen is a copywriter from Barrie, ON. She has a degree in English Literature from Laurentian University, and, after spending two years in Toronto, she now lives in Barrie with her husband and their substantial collections of books, sports memorabilia, and video games.
Nick Saul is currently president and CEO of which organization? Check out our festival program, and send the answer to firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered in a draw to win a prize pack of all the shortlisted Toronto Book Awards books, signed by the authors!
Keep an eye out for the last Toronto Book Awards review this week, and another chance to enter!
Contest closes September 19, 2014.