Friends of McCormick Park look to Scadding Court’s shipping container model to bring healthy food to the community

The Friends of McCormick Park are taking a page out of the Scadding Court Community Centre’s ‘Business in a Box’ book to deliver a much-needed amenity in the 1.5 hectare park near Dufferin and Dundas West streets.

The McCormick Park Shipping Cafe Project will be an experiment in creating a not-for-profit, community-oriented food outlet and activity hub.McCormick_Shipping_Pilot_Photo.JPG

“Our McCormick Park Shipping Container Cafe will provide an accessible, open and flexible space to prepare and serve nutritious food for the community,” said Davenport Councillor Ana Bailao in a statement. “This is another example of Ward 18 residents and local organizations working with my office to make our neighbourhood a great place to live, work and play.”

Friends of McCormick Park have been trying for some time to figure out a way to serve food in the park, according to spokesperson Jennifer Cypher.

“We did a survey and that’s what people said they wanted,” she told The Villager.

There is a kitchen in the Mary McCormick Recreation Centre, however, commercial food cannot be prepared there because of a venting issue, Cypher said. The Friends looked into capitalizing on the snack bar at the McCormick arena, but its board wasn’t receptive to the idea.

A few months ago, Bailao approached the group about Scadding Court’s community engagement economic development project that it initiated four years ago.

“We’ve taken shipping containers and modified them into market stalls,” said Kevin Lee, executive director. “We have 17 businesses operating out of shipping containers.”

These businesses at Dundas West and Bathurst streets include retail, food, an inorganic market and many more.

“We rent them out for $11 to $24 a day so people are able to start a business. To try to rent something in Toronto is really expensive. That’s why we set this up,” Lee said.

Scadding Court also hosts community events at its market place, like TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks and movie screenings. It is because of Scadding Court’s success with its market place that the councillor approached Lee to share his expertise. Earlier this month, Lee was instrumental in helping Friends set up a shipping container at McCormick Park to showcase the potential for a shipping container cafe during Bailao’s free compost day.

“We’ve had a number of meetings with Ana Bailao and the Friends of McCormick Park,” Lee said. “We’re looking at installation for September in time for a harvest festival.”

Community members are intrigued, said Cypher, who has lived near the park for the past 10 years and has been a part of Friends of McCormick since its inception in early 2012.

“It has a lot of support,” she said.

The launch of the pilot project will coincide with the completion of the park playground’s retrofit. Construction is set to begin soon. Its footprint is expanding both east and west. There will be a new water-sand play area and a climber for older kids as well as an accessible swing and other accessible play options. Low-impact sport equipment, such as a pull up bar, will be incorporated for adults. A free library, near Brock Avenue, is set to open anytime.

As for the shipping cafe, it will take a number of months to get a sense of what its hours will be and who its customers are, Cypher said.

“We are trying to get local entrepreneurs from marginalized communities involved,” she said. “Like Scadding Court, we’re trying to make this a social enterprise.”

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