A sandwich from CHEESEWERKS, an affiliate of Toronto Office Markets. All images: Pay Chen
Hotdogs are cheap and easy. Same with french fries or that slice of pizza that tastes like cardboard with cheese. If the reason you’re grabbing nasty food at lunch is because it’s what’s quick and available, then Alimentary Initiatives wants to change that for you. Having launched Toronto Office Markets in the fall of 2011, the goal is to make locally grown and locally produced food convenient by setting up a mini food market in office buildings around the city. Surely if you’re chained to your desk, the chain might reach as far as your office lobby.
The Founder of Alimentary Initiatives, Aruna Handa, is a lover of food and supporter of local. Recognizing that large supermarkets have pushed out many small producers who need to find alternative ways to sell their products, Aruna set up a pilot project to get vendors into office spaces and make locally produced food easily accessible to city-dwellers. If you can walk to the vending machine, you can walk to the lobby (just drag that chained chair behind you.)
The menu board at Loic Gourmet
The purpose of the Toronto Office Markets isn’t just to provide food made locally. It should, as much as possible, be made with locally sourced ingredients. On a recent visit to a market at Softchoice in Liberty Village, I found hot sandwiches made to order from Loic Gourmet and Cheesewerks, golden fluffy pies from Yorktown Pie and plenty of take-home options like cookies and brownies from Cookie Martinez, wild leek pesto, salads and fresh fish from Hooked Inc..
Soon, fresh produce will be available when farmers have enough to bring to an office market. And while some markets may not advertise themselves as “public”, it’s quite normal to find area residents or workers stopping in for a bite to eat.
Pestos and salads from Hooked Inc.
Aruna is often asked why local food costs more. Her answer is that it doesn’t cost more, “This is what real food costs.” In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, the benefits of supporting local cast a wide net beyond supporting your local farmer. The problem in North America isn’t the production of food, we produce plenty says Aruna, it’s the distribution. So if a small lunchtime market near your office provides you with local options, the hope is that you’ll put your money there.
For more information about Toronto Office Markets or to set up a market in your workplace, visit: www.AlimentaryInitiatives.com
Pay Chen is a TV host, writer, and producer who puts a lot of things in her mouth. If you have a favourite spot in the city to share, follow her on Twitter at @PayChen.
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