f.u.n. Fridays: Building Community through a Food Focused Weekly Event

On a sunny Friday morning, the Shelldale Gym was buzzing. Community Advisors (CAs) and volunteers with f.u.n. (Food Uniting Neighbours) are busy setting up tables, warming food and making coffee in preparation for f.u.n. Friday, a weekly community event that is much needed and beloved in the community. Advancing f.u.n.’s overarching goals of improving food access, f.u.n. Fridays bring together food, community resources and neighbours in a lively weekly event that is gaining traction and helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The work of f.u.n. (Food Uniting Neighbours) began in 2022. As the project was getting started, 13 Community Advisors were recruited from the neighbourhood to work alongside a program coordinator and partners from the University of Guelph. These CAs would quickly become the backbone of f.u.n., listening closely to their community to better understand their food access issues and designing creative solutions to address them. 

Over the last two years, f.u.n. has implemented a wide variety of community based programs and supports to improve food access and build community in the Onward Willow neighbourhood, where the project is based. 

  • To address food costs, f.u.n. connected with Groceries from the SEED and distributed gift cards to access their online, sliding scale grocery store. Transportation issues were addressed by purchasing and distributing wagons that could be used by community members to help with trips to the grocery store. During the program $400 in gift cards and 50 grocery carts and wagons were distributed. 
  • Three Community Cafes were held at the Shelldale Centre – a well loved community resource hub in Onward Willow. Community Cafes were a huge success, serving 900 meals in collaboration with Community FEWD.
  • Cooking and gardening workshops were also implemented. With the help of local experts, 10 workshops were held with over 60 participants from the community. Additionally, 10 participants were provided with supplies to help with their food growing at home. 

f.u.n. Fridays: An exciting new solution improving food access and community connections 

While directly supporting improved food access in Onward Willow, f.u.n. is also working to support a stronger, more connected community. They have certainly achieved this goal through community events that bring people together and by supporting the CAs as emerging community leaders. 

In late 2023, with planned workshops and program funding winding down, the f.u.n. team wondered how they could continue to bring food focused programming to their community. Putting their heads together it was clear that a consistent offering rooted in food access and community connections was needed – and f.u.n. Fridays was born! 

Beginning in September 2023, f.u.n. Friday has been gaining momentum ever since. Just six months later, they now see up to 75 community members each week who come to enjoy a meal, connect with their neighbours, shop with Groceries from the SEED and connect with other organizations providing services and resources to the neighbourhood. 

Community Advisors and visitors at f.u.n Friday.

f.u.n. Friday contributes to the SDGs 

SDG 1: No Poverty & SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

With weekly guests, such as 2nd Chance Employment Counselling, Canadian Arab Women’s Association and Guelph-Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, f.u.n. Fridays bring resources and information to the community. This is helping to connect community members to valuable local resources, including food, and increase awareness of support services in communities. The space for f.u.n Fridays is generously donated weekly by Kindle Communities, an organization dedicated to providing accessible inclusive spaced in Guelph and Wellington.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger 

Food is at the core of f.u.n. Fridays. Community meals are prepared by Community FEWD and supported by the Shelldale Family Gateway and the Guelph Food Bank. Additionally supporting food access, The SEED is a weekly partner with Groceries From The SEED, their sliding scale market offering fresh produce, pantry items and prepared foods up to 33% off the retail price. 

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities 

Through weekly free meals and food access support, f.u.n. Fridays help to address the inequalities facing many people living in the neighbourhood. Having a consistent place for people to come to get what they need, and build connections within their community is important for building stronger connections between neighbours. 

What does f.u.n. Fridays mean to the Community? 

Consistent, community driven and rooted in the kind of care that f.u.n is known for, f.u.n Fridays has been a huge success so far. In late february, SDG Cities visited f.u.n Friday to learn more about how the weekly event is supporting the SDGs and find out first hand what it has meant for the community. In collaboration with the Food System Resiliency Table, SDG Cities wanted to better understand how f.u.n Fridays is supporting food access and community building. 

f.u.n. Fridays have had an overwhelming positive impact on the community. Visitors reflect that the weekly event has made their community more inclusive, welcoming and connected. One visitor reflected that f.u.n. Fridays make Onward Willow feel more “busy and full of life” giving them a place where they “can meet lots of people.” 

Community members described f.u.n. Friday as FUN (of course), enjoyable, inviting, fantastic and safe. This reflects the environment that the f.u.n. team has been created and the value this kind of weekly event brings to the community. 

It was clear from community feedback that people continue to come to f.u.n. Fridays because of the delicious food provided and the opportunity to connect and meet new people. While some people came and went, enjoying a quick meal, others stayed for hours catching up with friends and enjoying the community atmosphere. Many are also drawn to f.u.n. Friday for the opportunity to help and gain experience as a volunteer. Whatever the reason, f.u.n. Friday allows community members to connect to resources they need and their community.

f.u.n Fridays is about more than just food. Welcoming artists and community vendors also helps to create a creative and enjoyable community atmosphere. During this visit community vendors like Janet from Sew Much Fun were selling their handmade goodies, while some community members played their ukuleles and hand drums to entertain adults and kids alike!

While f.u.n Fridays was not a part of the activities planned by the team. It has become a valuable core offering and something that community members look forward to every week. The f.u.n team hopes to keep up the momentum, with invaluable support from community partners, volunteers and the Community Advisors who have formed deep connections with each other and with the community. 

Learn more about f.u.n Fridays connection to the SDGs and community impact here.

Emily Hansen from SDG Cities, a program of 10C Shared Space and Yasmine Gheshlaghi, representing the Food System Resiliency Table at f.u.n. Friday.
A selection of spices and kitchen tools available for f.u.n. Friday visitors.
Feedback collected about f.u.n. Friday from visitors.

What’s Next for f.u.n Fridays? 

With a growing number of visitors and volunteers, f.u.n. Friday is going strong! The f.u.n. team continues to invite new volunteers and weekly guests to support the event. With continued support from the community and partners across Guelph, f.u.n. Fridays can continue to provide a welcoming community space and weekly meals and food access support to Onward Willow. 

Wondering how you can join the f.u.n.? 

  • Attend f.u.n Friday: f.un. Friday is about more than just food. The program provides a place for community members to socialize, access resources and learn about what is happening in their community. Join the FUN – every Friday from 10:30am – 2:00pm at the Shelldale Gym (20 Shelldale Crescent).
  • Join as a community vendor: f.u.n Friday is happy to welcome artists and community vendors to be a part of the event. Those who are interested are invited to come check things out on Fridays in the Shelldale Gym, and speak to one of the Community Advisors about how they can get involved. 
  • Shop with The SEED (GFTS) at f.u.n Friday: The SEED is at f.u.n Fridays every week with grocery orders and the sliding scale market. You can put in your Groceries from the SEED order and pick it up and you can shop their amazing selection of fresh produce, pantry items and baked goods at Shelldale between 10:30am and 2:00pm. 
  • Join f.u.n’s Facebook Page to learn about all upcoming f.u.n Friday events and other locally focused food programming.