Oasis and the forgotten pool in St. James Town

Tomatoes growing on tree

Adonis Huggins and Nea Maaty

(Adonis and Nea are journalists with the Focus Media Arts Centre~ a partner of the St. James Town Corner)

When you walk a bit further behind Food Basics in the space between the little park and 200 Wellesley, you will see the old empty swimming pool. The pool is owned by Toronto Community Housing and was closed in 2010 when it was discovered that black tar was leaking into the pool from a newly installed deck. TCHC assessed that the maintenance required to maintain the old pool would be too much.  Once a vibrant social hub in the summer, the fenced-in pool has stayed forgotten and waiting to be demolished. That is until now.

OASIS Food Hub is a program of the St. James Town Community Co-op, a resident-owned and operated organization. OASIS stands for Organic Agro-ecological Sustainable Integrated System. Co-op members and residents developed the OASIS Food Hub model to address food insecurity in St. James Town. Their idea is: why not transform the empty pool into an urban organic food farm as a way of addressing food insecurity in the neighbourhood?

Josephine Grey, the founder of the OASIS Food Hub, feels that our model of zoning laws and regulations are preventing the use of pools for an organic farm, but that has not stopped OASIS from advocating against outdated barriers like the use of the pool that prevents the city from reaching their own sustainable and human rights goals and commitments.  It also doesn’t stop OASIS from developing other alternative ways of addressing human rights to food.

In response to the Covid pandemic, OASIS has been reaching out and developing relationships with local farms in Ontario to obtain donations of organic farm produce that could be given out to community members who are struggling with food insecurity.  Funding support helps to transport and package the produce from the farms in addition to donations received from Food Share and the Daily Food Bank.  OASIS also runs two food gardens in the neighbourhood and is developing a feasibility study to build a climate-controlled agricultural greenhouse which will be able to provide upwards of 300 pounds of produce and 50 pounds of clean, healthy fish per month.

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