Why is it Important?

This community astounds me and I am very moved by the connections and friendships I have made since coming here. I feel like I have come home. Being in the program has been one of the things that has encouraged me and fed my spirit, my
heart... the connections and value recognized in my skills and abilities... even more so than the food, although that makes it possible for me to feel more secure so that I can concentrate on what is most important to me; art and community.
— Co-op Cred Program Participant

The Co-op Cred Program (CCP) is designed to address systemic challenges that prevent many of Parkdale's marginalized residents from both eating healthily and fully participating in the local economy. In South Parkdale according to a recent City of Toronto census, close to 35% of residents are low-income, and 13% are unemployed.

Many participants face significant barriers to re-entering the workforce, such as lack of Canadian experience, long-term unemployment, stigma attached to mental health, and the unpredictable nature of a health condition.

First and foremost, Co-op Cred recognizes each individual has a unique set of lived experiences that requires supportive and adaptive placements in order to see any success. We have learned together that a one-size-fits-all program design will have limited impacts.

The CCP has enabled participants to gain a firm footing from which to rebuild their relationship between work and quality of life. This lesson has encouraged us to shift our focus from generating short-term outcomes to planning for long-term goals to support rebuilding their healthy lives.

Food is the beginning of the conversation. Every participant has benefited from greater access to healthy food through the program, but what each person has accomplished after that is unique and informed by their own experiences. Outcomes are diverse, but key outcomes are health and recovery, knowledge gain, food literacy, peer support activity, peer leadership, employment, and housing transition.