A Toronto Farmers’ Market gifts Purim packages and helps those in need

A new tradition is starting at the Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market: you can gift Purim baskets, with local delicacies, to family and friends. 

It began last year when the farmers’ market created Mishloach manot packages that could be delivered to loved ones carrying various fresh produce and local goods. 

An order can be delivered anywhere in Toronto or picked up on Thursday, March 17, and can be placed through the online store which is open weekly Saturday through Tuesday at noon.

All orders must be placed by March 15 at 12 p.m. for pickup and delivery on March 17.

Plus there will be Matanot La’evyonim, or gift cards, to purchase. Last year, the market raised nearly $3,000 to help individuals and families who experience food insecurity in the local community. 

The donation will happen again this year and visitors will be given vouchers to shop from local farmers and vendors. They receive their goods also on March 17 during market hours. The certificates can be used on any purchase at the market, from produce to baked goods to ready-to-heat dinners. 

To gain deeper insight into the Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market’s Purim initiative I spoke with Matthew Watt who helps lead the initiative as well as the market’s online operations. 


Can you tell me about how this initiative came to be? 

Last year was the first year of it, and we were trying to find extra events to put together. When we moved online during the pandemic, we were already packing peoples orders. Some in the organization realized we could be making special orders and connecting more to the community. Last year, I wanted to make these Purim packages which allow you to surprise someone. And there’s also a gift card to give to someone in need. It allows the person to order whatever they want from the market. 

What goes into the Mishloach manot packages? 

So it’s typically a surprise for the person but it’s always based on what our vendors are regularly selling and their favourites. The market is focused more on farming and produce and less on prepared food. But we include things like dried fruit, cider, kombucha, baked goods, and chocolate, as well as healthy raw food items. 

Why did you choose Purim out of all the holidays? 

The holiday is just a great way of helping get food out into the community. We do it for other holidays too—like for Valentine’s Day. We were already donating to community fridges and packing food orders and adding a holiday to it is just a nice touch. We chose Purim as it’s earlier in the year, but we could definitely do more for upcoming Jewish holidays in the future.

Also, last year, $3,000 was donated to help those experiencing food insecurity. Did you give proceeds to a certain organization or partner with anyone? 

We were really inspired by the community organization happening during the pandemic. We found people through Facebook groups that were forming grassroots organizations like Toronto Cares and food insecurity groups. We would ask individuals to self identify if they were in need and if they were a family. We then would reach out back and forth over email to make sure they got the certificate. So rather than working with one non-profit dealing with hunger we went with something more local to our postal codes and the organizing that’s been happening in our community.

It makes sense too for a food market to want to help those experiencing food insecurity. But can you explain the importance of giving back to the community in this way? 

At every step people understand the huge importance in food culturally, personally, and obviously it’s an urgent need. Food insecurity is a major and pressing problem. Everyone involved in the farmers’ market wants to be able to help those who are food insecure but we can only go so far. There needs to be systemic change to feed every person who is hungry. We’d love to run a service like this all the time but people aren’t able to do it all. But this initiative can give them the opportunity to give to their community in an easy way. And it gives them a reason to be proud of going to the market. People are proud to be associated with Dufferin Market because of this and excited to engage with our farmers. It feels special when you give someone the opportunity to shop at our market who maybe wasn’t able to do it on their own.

Header image design by Clarrie Feinstein.

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