A Vancouver social enterprise, Sole Foods, is transforming vacant land into urban farms, with the collective vision of establishing organic urban farm produce stands that will offer patrons the option to pay what they can if they cannot pay full price. Hoping that those who can afford to and do choose to pay full price, will offset the cost and help subsidize those who cannot.
“This has not been tried in Vancouver before,… This is a very real targeted attempt to offer some of the best quality fruits and vegetables to those who are not able to afford them… We believe healthy food systems foster healthy communities. We envision a future where good food is accessible and grown sustainably, where farms thrive in an urban setting and where the community comes together to connect directly with their food and their neighbors.” – Michael Ableman, co-founder/Director of the nonprofit Sole Food Street Farms.
Sole Foods employs residents from Canada’s poorest postal code, the Downtown East side of Vancouver city, the majority of the employees are struggling to overcome addictions and poverty. The urban farming social enterprise has the goal of teaching these people how to grow their own food and at the same time provide high quality produce to those in the area who need it most. At its current peak, the group has provided 26 full-time jobs to at-risk Downtown East side residents.
“It personalizes where your food comes from, [and it makes a] good use of space that is otherwise vacant or discarded.”- Michael Ableman, Solefood Streetfarms co-founder/Director
Sole Foods Street Farms establishes dense urban gardens using planters on vacant paved-over lots and land that would otherwise be unsuitable for growing food. The produce that is grown is sold to local markets. Roughly 40 local restaurants and families buy weekly vegetable baskets throughout the growing season from this urban produce location. The pricing experiment is going to be offered at one location specifically to begin with, the Main street and Terminal Ave location in Vancouver. Prices are going to be posted for all produce but customers will be able to pay what they can only afford to pay.
The group also offers on-site housing options for employees in order to provide them a more permanent living situation for those who are dedicated to the project. The group has launched a crowd-funding campaign in an effort to expand operations, it has already successfully raised over $32,000 with the goal of raising $100,000 by July 1st 2014.