What is the Co-op Cred Program?
The Co-op Cred Program is a neighbourhood effort to re-engage people who face barriers to employment in the neighbourhood of South Parkdale in central Toronto.
Through supportive work-learn placements, participants have the opportunity to re-engage work, earn credit for work activity and exchange credit earned for the purchase of healthy food.
Participants learn or recover important work skills, regain connection with their neighbours, improve their health and recharge their confidence to pursue work and learning directions outside of the program - all while reclaiming their right to healthy food.
To date, seven local organizations have been involved in the development of the program: Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC), the West End Food Co-op (WEFC), Greenest City, the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (PQWCHC), The Centre for Mindfulness Studies (CMS), West Neighbourhood House - Parkdale Meeting Place and Free Geek Toronto (FGT). We are always looking for collaborators within the community and beyond.
Our goals are:
- Provide an alternative food purchasing benefit that increases access to healthy food
- Support those with employment barriers to re-engage with work
- Encourage increased skill building, critical consciousness, personal growth and leadership development
How did is start?
In 2013, the Co-op Cred program was piloted with seven participants of the PARC Ambassadors program. Based on reported outcomes from participants, this pilot project proved Co-op Cred's ability to generate multiple benefits that improved people's economic livelihoods. As well, it demonstrated great potential to be expanded and applied at a neighbourhood scale.
In 2014 and 2015, we explored the viability of the Co-op Cred program as a place-based, local economic development tool by expanding the scope of participants and partners within the neighbourhood. During these years, expansion included participants identified from among PARC's general members, Edmond Place's supportive housing tenants, and PCHC's program participants. As a result, the number of placements we were able to support jumped from seven to 26.
For 2016, we hope to expand the number of available placements even further, and explore greater opportunities for educational workshops and critical consciousness-raising programming for participants. Learn about impacts here.