Littlefoot Community Projects is a social and environmental not-for-profit based in Kitchener, Ontario aimed at relieving poverty by operating social enterprises related to food security. While we officially incorporated in January 2019, we have been donating organically grown produce since the summer of 2017. We were determined to start this project upon identifying a need for low-income populations to have stable access to healthy, affordable, and culturally relevant food.
In 2017, 19,465 households in Waterloo Region were categorized as ‘food insecure’, that’s 10% of the population. We understand that food insecurity is tied to complex social and cultural problems, but that a root issue is a lack of basic income. A few important numbers to note from Statistics Canada and the Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s Hunger Report 2017:
- In 2016, 32,640 people accessed food assistance in Waterloo Region, that’s 1 in 20 households
- In Waterloo Region, the number of food assistance program participants who are employed or recently employed (EI recipients) has remained fairly consistent for the past 5 years, around 17%.
- The most recent census indicates that 13.7% of the population (31,450 private households) are low income in the City of Kitchener
Currently, we are gardening in Maryhill and Simcoe using a small-plot intensive (SPIN) model and organic agricultural practices. Our main partnership is currently with KWHabilitation, an organization that offers a range of supportive services for Kitchener-Waterloo, including the operation of an affordable market for KW Hab’s low-income housing community. This market is run in part by program participants to inspire abilities and provide them with opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable. We also have connections with North End Harvest in Guelph, a market that assists new Canadians gain access to affordable food. Our plan for these markets is to sell our produce at a discount of 75% below grocery store prices so fresh produce will be available to those in need. The Simcoe Caring Cupboard; a food bank servicing Simcoe and the Norfolk region has been our longest beneficiary as we have donated to them for two years. To date, we have donated roughly 1250 lbs of produce in total to these organizations, about 1000 lbs of which was in the 2018 season.
We seek to form meaningful partnerships to address the systemic causes of food insecurity, in a way that is intersectional and ecologically-minded. One aspect of this initiative is to support public health through therapeutic and educational gardening programs in multiple communities, by connecting with interested schools and businesses. Our organization will engage in community-based research, educational outreach, and workshop facilitation, to advocate for food equity and policy change. To sustain ourselves economically beyond fundraising, we plan to offer produce on a sliding scale pricing system for produce and related goods in order to help cover costs of operation while staying accessible. Our planned programs and initiatives for 2019 are as follows:
- Fair Food Stand: In partnership with the Working Centre, Littlefoot hopes to start up a Fair Food Stand on Saturdays, this summer, at Fresh Ground, 256 King St. E, Kitchener. We will be selling produce on a sliding scale, allowing people to access food without judgment.
- Littlefoot Food Share: Littlefoot will also be piloting a food share program for individuals and families that self-identify as low-income. Based on discussions with local residents, we are designing this program to reduce some of the identified barriers to accessing healthy food through a CSA style program. No upfront subscription will be required, and payments can be made on a weekly or monthly basis. Food will be delivered directly to people at no additional cost, and delivery dates can be flexible throughout the week.
- Website and Blog: one important piece of this project is to build institutional reflexivity i.e. to constantly reflect on our work as an organization, to learn, and to grow. To do this, we will engage in critical food and equity research, write and post blog posts to build awareness of food issues, and share diverse forms of knowledge on related topics.
This campaign is aimed at raising the funds necessary to set-up future programs and to ensure the smooth operation of the project as a whole. We have already invested a lot of our own money into incorporating the organization, seeds, transportation/gas, and irrigation supplies, not to mention hours upon hours of sweat equity. As we recently downsized from our truck, we are in need of funds to purchase a trailer and hitch for our current vehicle (~$4,500). This will allow us to successfully transport produce from the farm to our program partners and food share members. While our irrigation materials have been purchased, we need to dig in a large section of line from the well to the garden. To protect the line we are hoping to buy materials and rent a backhoe and winterize it, costing an estimated $550. We also hope to purchase a cargo bike trailer (~$300) in order to make food share deliveries throughout Kitchener-Waterloo in an environmentally-friendly way. This fund will also allow us to pay a graphic designer to assist with logo development and a website, in order to brand our organization and spread the word on our food work. We care about buying products used; if this is not feasible, we will look for high quality products with a lifetime warranty. Beyond these major purchases, any remaining funds will be used to support our future material needs such as heated propagation mats, garden tools, seeds, and maybe even part-time help. This GoFundMe is just one of our efforts to raise funds - funds will be raised through events, auctions, private donors, and grant applications.
Who are We?
Vanessa is a critical food researcher, social activist, and ice cream producer living in Downtown Kitchener. She cares deeply about her cultural foods, the relationship between food, memory, and placemaking, and the mental health aspects of food. Vanessa is sensitive and introverted, always reflecting how to deepen the efforts of Littlefoot. Her personal interests include trying new beers, writing secret haikus, ukulele-ing, crafting, running, and yoga.
Dan is a passionate gardener and environmentalist living with Vanessa and his German Shepherd Maddalyn in Kitchener. He is currently managing inventory, purchasing, and logistics at his father’s small manufacturing business in Simcoe. With a background in Environmental Science and community garden management, Dan keeps Littlefoot grounded in principles of ecological sustainability and regenerative gardening techniques. Outside of work, Dan enjoys training for triathlons, climbing, camping, and taking long walks with Maddalyn.
We are so touched by the generosity of Janet and Roger of Stone Meadow Farm, who have offered to share their land and resources for this project. We recognize that this garden exists on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations, which includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. We understand that there are deep complexities and contradictions associated with conducting food justice work on these stolen lands. We are working hard to address the structural causes of food insecurity, including patriarchy, settler colonialism, racism, and poverty.