Food Forward has called on councillors to fully endorse Scaling Up Urban Agriculture today as the Parks and Environment Committee discusses a report moved by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon highlighting recommendations from the GrowTO Action Plan.
We have written in support of the recommmndations after a remarkable show of interest in urban agriculture this summer and increasing support over the last decade in the form of several reports, city strategies, community programs and new enterprises. We are looking forward to see the City will take another step forward in its support of an urban agriculture program and a co-ordinated office.
As the number of Torontonians vulnerable to food insecurity increases due to the economic situation, urban agriculture can be part of a strategy for increasing access to good food, and create jobs in all parts of the City.
To do this, we'll need to see an increase in support and leadership from the City to end any unnecessary hurdles faced by community members, agencies, or budding entrepreneurs. The City support within a number of divisions that exists has been helpful in producing results. Stumbling blocks are sometimes faced in Parks, due to lack of City staff resources, and will erode somewhat in 2013 due to the loss of the Live Green animator program. The recommendations also aim to review policy change to support land use and sale of food.
We hope for unanimous support and a strong call from the Committee to see a report return in good time that will bring enhanced City support and a clear, simple program to respond to Torontonians' action in the growing and distribution of food.
Community gardening is on a roll in Toronto. Gardens are part of most community food programs and a part of developments in new park and neighbourhoods plans throughout the City.
Despite this, the City hasn't met its 1999 target of a garden in every ward... we're short about 19 wards (outof 44). Though the target may have been more symbolic than practical (it takes a community not government itself to create a garden), there is still work that City staff, residents, and councillors can do together to achieve our potential.
Taking leadership in this work has been the Live Green community animators under EcoSpark, who have been working all over the City supporting residents to start community gardens along with other local food and environmental projects. Food Forward has worked in partnership with the four animators and watched them do amazing things to support and enable community work. For example, our Food For Ward rep in ward 25 is working with North York's community animator to start a community garden in York Mills.
It is unfortuante then, after a five year run, the community animation program (destined to run for that length), is ending this year. As a final event, the animators are organizing four panels for community members working to start environmental projects. I am excited to be moderating the discussion on community gardens with a number of experienced community food organizers.
I hope that a type of animation program can again be re-born with the City's support. For now we can learn from each other's work through forums like these; food and community organizations in the City; and one-on-one connections built through events like Foodie Drinks', Facebook, and networks including the Food For Ward Project we've established.
We can also work with local city councillors, many of whom are more than happy to assist gardens get started. We've had conversations with many and know of councillors who are helpful or want to help - here's an incomplete list of food & garden keeners if you're want to connect (and let us know who we should add): Councillors Bailao, Councillor Berardinetti, Councillor Carroll, Councillor Cho, Councillor Colle, Councillor De Baeremaeker, Councillor Doucette, Councillor Filion, Councillor Fletcher, Councillor Fragedakis, Councillor Layon, Councillor Matlow, Councillor McMahon, Councillor McConnell, Councillor Parker, councillor Pasternak, Councillor Robinson, Councillor Vaughan, Councillor Wong-Tam.
Check here for more resources.
Street food advocate Darcy Higgins told reporters that food trucks co-exist with restaurants in other centres.
“I just want to sell sandwiches,” said Matthew Basile, whose Fidel Gastro’s Cuban sandwich truck doesn’t have a permanent location.
Committee votes to send Street Food Project recommendations to Director of Licensing
“I will be operating out of a food truck within the next six months,” he vows. But Mr. Robertson tells me there is no public or private land in central Toronto zoned to permit Mr. Basile’s truck.
Darcy Higgins of the group Food Forward suggested that the city “allow refreshment vehicles and food vendors to vend temporarily in commercial parking lots for a period of up to four hours;” councillors sent that back to staff for study.
Food truck hubs in designated areas or parks can generate revenue for the city. The containers (such as the ones at Scadding Court) can be a platform for indie food entrepreneurs that don't have the money for a food truck, but want to test their food ideas.
I would like to see the City of Toronto work towards street food installations where we can consider restaurants, popups, and food trucks.
Food Forward is incredibly lucky to be partnering with a number of individuals representing the diversity of Toronto street food, including existing street food vendors, start-up food vendors and event organizers, as well as dedicated activists, a lawyer, and a planner. Together we're working with Torontonians to make sure our politicians and bureaucrats are accountable and make positive change for diverse street food in Toronto and allow new jobs to flourish on our streets.
This Thursday, the Licensing & Standards Committee will be voting on a City report that would finally allow street food vendors to prepare a diversity of foods in the City. There are many media stories about this including this one with Darcy Higgins' and Carly Dunster's thoughts, and we'd invite you to join us at the Committee meeting to help push food further forward.
We wanted to share with you some recent work of our partners.
Take a look at this delicious blog by Kyla Zanardi to see what we did at the Street Food Block Party, see the vendors, and hear suppportive words from City Councillors that Darcy interviewed.
Andrea Winkler, who recently returned from viewing street food and policies in action in Los Angeles has prepared this insightful video profiling Toronto street food vendors. I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as we did. Please share!