Ask a social entrepreneur in Toronto's food scene about food or biz prep and you'll inevitably hear about a need for kitchen space.
It's the most oft heard request we get.
So we worked with Housing Services Corporation to create this map of commercial kitchens on offer in the City. Folks have been really happy about it, but I don't think we're totally satisified.
We need more rentable commercial kitchens on offer in this town. We need them for new entrepreneurs working to make sustainable and ethical products, for pop-up vendors to bring diverse foosd to the street, for Canadian newcomers to scale-up and legitimize new businesses. More kitchens would support more economic opportunities.
Some are being offered quietly by churches and restaurant owners, but aren't in a place to be doing it widely. Others might exist which we haven't found yet (please let us know!)
Our research and that of others has found this strong need, but a lack kitchens that are either certified or rented for business purposes - though good kitchens exist. The need may be highest in the inner suburbs, where many community-based catering and related food businesses exist, but kitchens on our map.
Business activity isn't always looked at as an end goal of the food movement or non-profit agencies. But it should be seen as a social and economic driver.
Entrepreneurs may start stepping up to the plate to rent kitchens and create hubs, perhaps downtown... but with the number of community and health centres, housing, and other agencies that already have kitchens throughout the inner burbs, maybe some of them can start filling this need. As do most things, it may require some commitment, money, and time.
Food actionists are just that. So let's see what we can do.
Contact to help share ideas, solutions, connections.
This year, Food Forward is expanding our Food Entrepreneur Training Program to offer a series of workshops to provide budding entrepreneurs with practical training, lessons, and education in different aspects of starting and running a good food business. Future workshops will focus on different aspects of planning, including financing, marketing, product development, and regulations.
Our first workshop of the year in partnership with the Sustainability Network and sponsored by The Big Carrot, will offer an introduction to developing a business plan by David Alexander from the Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre who facilitates award-winning business training. This will be followed by facilitated discussions and problem solving with other start-up food businesses, with time for meeting and connecting.
If you're thinking of starting a small business, or you're off the ground running and want to do some planning & get some ideas, this workshop is for you. It's especially suitable for food business ideas that focus on healthy, culturally diverse, local sustainable food, or social development.
You will leave with:
- an understanding of the aspects needed to develop a business plan
- resources and readings on starting your business
- connections to opportuntities for business planning, and food business experience of several kinds
- networking opportunities to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and foster potential business relationships
- Food Forward membership for information on future events, promotion and collaboration opportunities
Time: 6:30-9:00PM, Monday, March 4
Location: Whole Connector Room (first floor), CSI Spadina, 215 Spadina Avenue
Registration: Cost is $25.
$5 for Supporting Members/monthly contributors
Snack to be provided.
Tanya Fields is a woman who inspires me these days.
Her work with the BLK ProjeK is the kind that empowers people and communities - in particular, underserved women of colour - to take back control of this broken food system and lead with the change they want to see.
It was because of this type of food movement work, most likely, that she was invited, and then uninvited to be a featured speaker at TedXManhattan: Changing the way we eat. Her organzing on good food and food jobs in the Bronx is bringing hundreds together while creating positive change. It shows the difference a person can make while giving it what you've got, and developing some skills and ideas with the community.
An open letter from Tanya to the organizers regarding the dis-invite was when the issue and Tanya's work came to my attention. An apology and reconcilitation note later came, with the hope of focusing on stronger attention to issues of food justice and race using a critical lense. A food movement that doesn't focus on realities of economies, poverty, racism, or privilege isn't much of a movement at all.
Their vision for a way forward could in fact be a model for those working in Toronto as well:
"The consequences of and responses to this action have provided a powerful message about how fundamental issues of race, representation, cultural divide and fear affect our work and must be addressed, respectfully and honestly... We are determined to harness the power and commitment that was so clearly expressed and use it as fuel for positive solutions as we move forward."
After the invitation was revoked, Tanya went ahead to organize an event Not Just Talk: Food in the South Bronx, at the same time as TEDxManhattan. Organizers of each, however, will now be attending each others' events and sharing dialogue.
So here in Toronto, Lettuce Connect with the Academy of the Impossible is co-hosting a viewing party of the Ted talks on Saturday February 16th - there I'll say a few words on my learning on the ability to likewise expand food justice work in Toronto. Meanwhile, we have the Live Stream details from Tanya to view Not Just Talk from the winterty comfort of home. Both run all day, and it should be easy to catch some of either or both events.
Our food connections and diverse work need strong community roots.
Check out the details of these events, as well as Canadian Organic Growers' conference the same day, and let's all have a weekend of practical learning together.
Darcy Higgins, Executive Director of Food Forward can be reached at email@example.com
Learn about the Growing Food & Justice Initiative .