Monday, March 17, 2014

The Stop by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis

The Stop by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis is one of the most inspirational stories I've come across in a long time. Saul has not only succeeded in reconfiguring the traditional food bank supply and distribution format, but also managed to bring around the whole thinking behind food as a community builder. After rolling up his sleeves and getting his vision off the ground, he's now put his ideas and process in print and on the road to bring really what should be a common sense practice to communities around the country.

The book itself is a wonderful read, full of personal stories, insights and hope. But for a more in-depth look at his community food center in full swing, take a look at his website and the short video below. Would that all communities could have such a program in place.

(back cover)
 In 1988, Nick Saul took the reins of a little urban food bank, a last-hope refuge where desperate people could stave off hunger for one more day with canned salt, sugar and fat. To work there was dispiriting; to go there for a handout, humiliating. Over the next fourteen years, The Stop evolved into something unprecedented, a community food center that not only helps people when they're hungry, it uses food to build skills, health, confidence and independence. With its kitchens, gardens, greenhouse, and farmers' market, it has attracted the support of celebrities, benefactors and governments, inspired by its fresh new approach to an old problem. One of the greatest social innovation stories you will ever read, The Stop is a timely book about overcoming obstacles, challenging sacred cows and creating lasting change.

No one wants a handout. pg 1

Food banks also help corporations avoid hefty fees for getting rid of their unsaleable food. Instead of dumping, they can donate. Good Samaritan laws that make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to sue if the donated food causes health problems turn donating food into an especially attractive option. In a few jurisdictions, companies are even offered a tax credit for passing on their unsaleable food items. pg8

Instead of simply 'helping the needy' by handing out food - a one-off transaction - there is incredible potential here at The Stop to engage with the people of this neighborhood to take charge of their own lives. To provide support as they articulate and work toward their own dreams for the future. 

Anyway, it's clear from those members who come back every month and the new people who turn up every week that giving out cans of soup or beans does nothing to make poverty and hunger go away. pg24

People have been growing food in urban areas since the beginning of cities themselves. But greater density and the idea that cities are for industry and production while rural areas are for growing food - as well as the notion that food is grown by specialized people in a specialized process - has conspired to make urban farming unusual. City vegetable plots have never died, though, especially among certain immigrant communities. pg30 members talk about the shame and humiliation they feel having to use food banks and receive charity. Gardens don't prevent that feeling, of course, but they help alter the conversation. People might become involved in planting and weeding and have a chance to bring home some of the food. And when they share the work and the produce, their connection to what they eat, to each other and to the organization changes. It's no longer a 'we give, they take' proposition. It's collaborative - and something to build on. pg32

I said that what we're doing with food banks isn't working and we must find alternatives. And I said that at The Stop we don't think simply handing out food and sending people on their way is good enough - not now or ever. The Stop encourages engagement in everything from guiding and shaping the programs and services to setting our course for the future. I said that from this platform it becomes possible for people to move beyond their community to articulate their needs on a larger stage. That's how social change happens - from the ground up...." pg 82


Melwyk said...

I loved this book as well; lucky for me, the first new-style community food centre that Saul's organization helped begin is right in my own town! I thought this was a fascinating read and that the ideas are fresh and inspiring.

Trish said...

Yes, he's an example of what's right with the world. I'm so excited about his book and the positive changes it could make in communities everywhere.