From Regina, we travelled to Saskatoon, a city we fell in love with for multiple reasons including its picturesque bridges over the South Saskatchewan River, great food, and welcoming people. Saskatoon was a lively city, and its residents clearly take pride in the unique culture that exists in this part the province. We were immediately charmed.
Station 20 West is a social enterprise and community development initiative in Saskatoon’s west side, specifically serving the low-income neighbourhoods of Riversdale and Pleasant Hill. CHEP, a food security organization, and Quint, a development organization, are the two non-profit partners of Station 20 West. Together, they’ve done a great deal to support and educate the residents of the city, and Station 20 West now exists because of a very supportive community of businesses and individuals in Saskatoon; a massive fundraising campaign raised over 4 million dollars in just 4 years.
They still rely on fundraising, donations, grants, and government funding to keep the centre running, but they have also launched some income generating projects to provide more security for their large organization. Programs are all offered as low-cost as possible, and always prioritize serving members of the community over making money. CHEP started the Boxcar Café, which serves soups, salads, and smoothies with produce from their community garden on site. It’s a very cheap and tasty way to get a healthy lunch.
CHEP also delivers a ‘Good Good Box’ program to residents in the neighbourhood. Some members of the community have physical barriers to obtaining food, or might simply prefer to have it delivered. Weekly good food boxes ranging from $8-30 are ordered, filled with food sourced from local producers and wholesalers, assembled into boxes (including recipes!) by volunteers, and delivered to the neighbourhood depots. The program is the 2nd largest program of its kind in Canada, distributing nearly 2000 boxes of good food per month.
The area surrounding Station 20 West was previously considered a ‘food desert,’ meaning a community with little or no access to healthy food. In addition to opening the café, starting the good food box, and the community garden, Station 20 West leased 5,000 square feet at a very low cost in order to open the area’s first grocery store, the Good Food Junction.
Travelling to a grocery store may seem like a mild inconvenience to those of us with vehicles and a livable income, but for low-income families who must to travel by bus or taxi to get their week’s groceries, it is a much more serious issue. If junk food is more convenient and less expensive, it is more likely to be chosen over a healthier option further away. The opening of the Good Food Junction meant that people without a vehicle could access healthier food, and transition out of consuming food from the proximate gas station or fast food venue. The Good Food Junction has had a tremendous impact on the day-to-day health of residents of the neighbourhood.
In addition to Quint and CHEP, Station 20 West houses also houses several other community support and development organizations, making it a hub for community services. Station 20 West also owns the complex behind the main building, the units of which are offered up as affordable housing.
Station 20 West is a unique undertaking and adds much to the depth of the Saskatoon food scene—thanks to the folks at CHEP and Quint for taking the time to talk with us!