TORONTO — FoodShare Toronto is a nonprofit community organization dedicated to providing good, healthy food for everyone.

At the Ontario Food Terminal, however, it’s just another customer.

“We bought a million dollars’ worth of produce from the terminal last year, and another $600,000 from small family farmers who brought it directly to us,” said executive director Debbie Field.

Field said it took many years to get an account at the terminal, so she makes sure the bills are paid every week.

“We’ve shown that the community sector can be a good customer as well as do good,” she said.

FoodShare also works with small organic farmers not represented at the terminal.

“We have Mennonite farmers who bring their produce by horse and buggy to a local gas station and another organic farmer picks it up and drives it to us in Toronto,” she said.

All that produce is used by four programs.

Good Food Box

Volunteers fill 4,000 Good Food Boxes a month, filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables at a cost of $13-34 a box. The boxes are delivered to drop-off points throughout the city, 85% of them in low-income neighborhoods or at community agencies.

“There’s no means test, so anybody of any income can participate” Field said.

Produce to Schools

Field said FoodShare bought $1.6 million buying fresh produce last year, and earned $1.9 million selling it. Much of it was purchased by local schools for midmorning snack programs.

The organization delivers fresh fruit and vegetables weekly to about 260 Toronto schools, 20 nonprofit child care centres, 75 parenting centres and 15 nonprofit agencies.

Markets, Mobile Truck

Volunteers run weekly markets in low-income neighborhoods, she said, and FoodShare’s Good Food Mobile Truck program is in its third year.

Field said selling food in poor areas has its challenges.

Some people have so little income they can only spend $5, which doesn’t cover the cost of the food. And parking a truck full of food outside a vast high-rise complex doesn’t guarantee that enough people will know about the mobile market and come out to buy food when it arrives.

These problems will be solved, she said.

“We believe that everybody should be able to walk 15 minutes from their house to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.”