Welcome to Food Forward

Mar
13

#4: Let's Up Healthy Food

Food Nation, made up of hundreds of Torontonians including many City Councillors, is calling for a major reduction in poverty over this Council term. We need a strong push from all governments to create fair incomes for all.

Torontonians who can't afford to buy food continue to depend on assistance programs of many kinds that operate throughout the City. While we rely on these programs, we need to ensure the amount of food that's provided is of high quality and quantity. A number of projects are coming together to ensure better food, and we need to do more.

The First Food Nation Town Hall at George Brown College, early 2014

Along with the rise of community food centres and food banks that are working hard to improve their operations, we have a few great projects and policies that are making a difference.

The new food program tax credit for community food organizations allows farmers some funds back to donate fresh food to community programs. A new vegetarian food bank has just opened downtown, bringing more fresh produce to a number of Torontonians. Meanwhile, Creating Health Plus is getting healthy food staples to drop-ins across Toronto.

Varying amounts of modest funds are allowing these projects to happen. They are making a difference in health and dignity across the City. That's why Food Nation's fourth plank advocates: Bring fresh, healthy food to 100 food assistance programs.

During this Council term, the City needs to scale up the work of projects like these, and itself implement a sustainable fund to increase the amount of healthy food distributed in our diverse communities - for fresh food, and the infrastructure to prepare it. We want to see 100 community programs to have access, which could mean starting out with a four million dollar fund, just over a dollar per Torontonian. It would go a long way.

Programs like this work so well in partnership. Stronger leadership from the City on food access can bring other levels of government and partners to the table to bring contributions as well. Food simple must have a strong and reiterated mandate from City Council and with the funds to back it up.

Not only does healthy food need to be readily accessible, it food must be dignified, respecting our multitude of diets and cultural traditions. We can't have a one size fits all approach - community involvement should drive food choices.

We look forward to the kind of leadership that sees the solutions happening in our communities, and provides the support to make these solutions stronger. As we work towards food justice and access for everyone, there are things Toronto can do right away to make things better.


This was re-posted from the Food Nation blog. Food Nation is a campaign by Food Forward's Food Justice Committee which began at the end of 2013. It has the full support of Toronto's mayor and much of City Council.

Mar
5

Another stab at street food

 Montreal's Fruxi - source

City consultation of street food is happening once again, with a review of the last year's new by-laws to explore additional changes. A presentation will be held with an opportunity for public comment:

Committee Room 1 at City Hall, March 5 6:30-8:30PM

Learn how to make a deputation here.

Food Forward is pleased with the City's review of policy, with additional recommendations to make it more viable for food trucks to operate in Toronto. We propose the following:

  • Create a pilot project for 2015, allowing ten licenses for street food carts in the three most downtown wards. Currently no new food carts are allowed, however Torontonians and tourists are hungry for more options. With the number of hot dog carts dropping precipitously over the last several years, there are many available spots to try something, and food diversity is to be encouraged and in great demand.
 
  • In addition to your proposed changes, such as the increased time a vendor is allowed to park, we encourage the City to allow food trucks to park within 25, not 50 metres of a restaurant, as is the case in Calgary and London (where a food truck license is $1,225), and to allow restaurants the choice to opt out of this to support collaborative opportunities.
 
  • As we have in the past, we ask Licensing and Standards to work with us and others to explore licensing of other types of street food, in a way that would enable food access and support new entrepreneurs for those with small mobile food vending like carts, bicycles, produce stands, and mini-markets with locally grown foods.
 

Food Forward has worked with partners since 2011 to bring about changes to the City's street food environment, resulting in more opportunities and an increase in diverse street food in city streets, parks and private properties.

 

Feb
13

Upcoming food events

Check our TO Food Events Hub link above for information on what's coming up, including events with Building Roots and Food Nation!

Skate & Cider with Food Nation

At Skate and Cider, we'll be discussing a food justice vision for Toronto and sharing the Food Nation platform around a warm camp fire.

Date: February 21, 2015 Time: 2-4pm

Location: Duffering Grove Park (south of Bloor on Dufferin)

Feed Your Advocacy with Building Roots 

Help Create Places to Grow, Cook, Buy, and Share Healthy Food 

Date: February 23, 2015 Time: 6:30 - 8:00pm

Location: 35 Fairview Mall Drive, Toronto Public Library Room 1, First Floor

 

Jan
27

4 ways to plant an urban agriculture breakthrough in Toronto

Every neighbourhood needs places to grow, cook, buy and share healthy food.

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That means urban agriculture needs a big scale-up across Toronto. Same with commercial/community kitchens, food stores, markets, street food and community food hubs.

Our city is growing faster than ever, and so it’s time that all new housing and renewals across the City bring this needed infrastructure for new residents and for the existing neighbours.

The City can use existing policies and change a few, to make this a reality. It will require councillors, planners, agencies and developers to work together with residents to make it happen.

Quadrangle Architects

Toronto’s Official Plan, the big map for the future of our City, even calls for community and rooftop gardens, and states, “our future is one where adequate amounts of safe, nutritious, culturally acceptable food are available to all.”

So let’s get to work.

Along with a whole bunch of amazing projects and plans underway like the Urban Agriculture Strategy, these key items could get things growing.

  1. Develop it


Whenever there’s a consultation meeting on a new housing project, a condo or a renewal, Torontonians have to show up and bring food into the discussion. Most developers and planners don’t have food top of mind, but a City full of people who care about improving the food system can make it happen.


Look around your area with your neighbours and ask what’s missing. A food store? A community garden? Access to a kitchen? (Affordable housing??) Bring it up to the planner and councillor and see what can be worked in as Toronto continues to change. Learn how to do it here.


  1. Plan it in
     

The City is undertaking neighbourhood plans all the time, including some major revitalizations. These need to suit the needs of current residents. Your feedback is critical to getting it right. And the City provides many ways to provide it and engage in the process.


When we “embed” food into these plans, we can actually get some real sway and results when things get moving. Residents in Regent Park raised their voice, it's in the plan and it's happening. Let’s prioritize our neighbourhood food needs in these neighbourhood strategies and follow-up to see that things come together, get them built and operated.


Daniels Corporation

  1. Follow the money


Section 37 is a part of the Planning Act that pushes many developments to lend money for community benefits, like park improvements. They haven't traditionally been used for gardens in parks or kitchens in community centres, but it can all be done.


Councillors, residents and planners need to know that these are options. In fact, a community garden and a new apartment food hub have recently been made possible by taking advantage of good chunks of these funds in Toronto thanks to some foresight. Let’s use what we can do to improve food access.

 

  1. Green that building


Toronto is lucky enough to have the Toronto Green Standard which provides all sorts of rules and incentives to make new buildings much more sustainable than they would have been. Local food grown on site could give residents or neighbours a five metre diet, reducing food kilometres and farm run-off.


But again, food has been forgotten and is missing from the Standard. Let’s incent developers to green it up and work to build and support growing food (not just sedum) as part of new roofs and adjacent landscapes or parks.


Help push for change.


To get some more details and figure out how you can help make it happen, contact us or check out this advocacy overview.


For some examples and how to talk this up in a nearby development, visit our Building Roots Toolkit.


You can also help advocate for change by endorsing and volunteering with Food Nation and our platform (see point number 1!)


And don't forget to dig in! This'll all need a heck of a lot more urban farmers, facilitators and teachers to make happen.



Darcy Higgins is the Founding Director of Food Forward. He is a consultant with Building Roots, currently developing new urban agriculture, markets, kitchens and food hubs in Toronto. darcy@pushfoodforward.com