Every neighbourhood needs places to grow, cook, buy and share healthy food.
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 kale on a hipster’s roof, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, poor old food has been forgotten and is missing from the Standard [sad-face]. 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. email@example.com
Learn more about food access in Toronto, Food Nation and how Torontonians are working with Food Forward to change policy and allow for good food. With Food Forward's Darcy Higgins on The Green Majority
"Now that we have a new Council - we worked during the last election to put a new agenda forward, we had a lot of support with that - and now it's about implementing those pieces step by step."
Join Food Forward by clicking above!
"I fully support the Food Forward platform and look forward to working with your organization and others in advocating a health focused food policy in the city of Toronto," stated John Tory in an endorsement of the Food Nation platform. Tory joins over 60 other Toronto candidates commiting to action if elected.
"The need for action and a proactive policy with respect to food is clear," states Tory, listing issues of food insecurity, obesity, rising costs of food, and Toronto food deserts.
"We are seeing a lot of innovative urban agriculture projects throughout the city and I am happy to continue exploring measures to provide our city with local, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food," said Tory. He lists urban agriculture projects at Eastdale Collegiate School and the Black Creek Farm as excellent examples in Toronto, and further learning we can take from initiatives in Montreal and Oakland, California.
"I look forward to leading the city and working with the province to reduce barriers, identify opportunities for growth in urban agriculture projects, and encourage innovative strategies for a health-focused food system."
Our Food Justice Committee thanks Mr. Tory for his full support and commitment to food policy change if elected. The Food Nation platform includes policies to improve access to fresh food at 100 food assistance programs, supporting planning policies that create healthy food neighbourhoods, and City leadership in bringing 250,000 people out of poverty by 2018.
We look forward to working with the newly elected Mayor and Council, and all those who've endorsed the platform to start making positive change and results over the next few months.
Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow has announced support for Food Nation and the food justice campaign's five point platform. The campaign has engaged residents and candidates in all parts of Toronto and asks politicians to reverse growing poverty and food inacessibility in Toronto.
"I believe that working with Food Forward and the Food Nation Toronto platform," said Chow in a letter, "we can help include more people and help alleviate poverty in our city."
"I support places to grow healthy food in our communities using city land, community gardens, and I have specifically committed to seeing lands around residential towers in our city invigorated with food markets and community gardens. "
She continues, highlighting from her platform:
"We have 29% child poverty in the city and I am pledging to help alleviate this hunger with 36,000 more healthy breakfasts a week."
Food Forward's Food Justice Committee thanks Ms. Chow for her support and commitments. We hope to see other leading mayoral candidates endorse Food Nation with a commitment to significant results in improving food access, jobs and capacity by 2018.
In the 2010 election, leading mayoral candidates' released platforms with solutions on food access, job creation, and urban agriculture. Many council candidates also pledged support to start food initiatives with their communities, many of which have been started since that time. In this election, dozens of Council candidates have endorsed the Food Nation platform.
Candidates and Torontonians are encouarged to get involved, review the platform, and continue to build support, by making an endorsement at: