City Council


Food Justice, inequity and change in Toronto

Last week, Toronto Mayor John Tory proclaimed May 5, 2015 Food Justice Day in Toronto. For this special occasion, Nydia Dauphin, FoodShare Toronto’s Food Justice Senior Coordinator, was among the guest speakers invited to City Hall to share their work and recommendations to advance food justice in the city.

About FoodShare Toronto’s Food Justice Work

FoodShare Toronto is a non-profit community food organization that develops long-term solutions to address food system inequalities. Our programs follow a food justice community development model to rebuild community control of our food system by partnering with community leaders, organizations, and schools.

FoodShare prioritizes work with low-income communities and schools through focused programs in fresh produce distribution, food literacy education, urban agriculture, nutrition and community cooking. All programs support a variety of health, economic, environmental, community, and social benefits, and seek to improve food access for everyone currently underserved by the food system.

Since first founded in 1985, FoodShare’s visionary leadership has pioneered long-term replicable solutions, and cultivated public empowerment and awareness of food issues. FoodShare believes that high-quality affordable healthy food should be universally available, and advocates for policy change needed to address the root causes of hunger.

The Cross-Cultural Food Access Innovation Hub

Through the Cross-Cultural Food Access Innovation Hub, FoodShare supports local solutions to address systems of oppression and exclusion in the food system. With this work, FoodShare has made it a priority to work with members of the indigenous community (the Three Sisters’ House/Nswo Nshiimenhig Endaayat), the African-Caribbean community (the Black Farmers and Growers Collective) as well as the New Comers community (Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee), by providing organizational resources to support these community-led groups.

Food Justice Network

FoodShare Toronto animates a Food Justice Network in partnership with Food Secure Canada. Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty through three inter-locking goals: zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems. The aim of this network is to elevate food justice understanding and application across the country.

Growing Food and Justice for All - Toronto Local Empowerment Group

At the local level,  FoodShare coordinates the Toronto chapter of the North American Growing Food and Justice for all initiative, which works to dismantle racism and empower low-income and communities of color through sustainable and local agriculture. From May 22-24, we will be hosting for the second time in Toronto a Growing Food Justice by Uprooting Racism Training with facilitators from Growing Power. This training aims to push forward the integration of racial justice principles into the food justice movement, to give hands on tools, to continue a strategic dialogue and to enable an exchange between activists who work in this field.


The following recommendations were put forth:

1. a City wide adoption of the notion of racialized food insecurity. A Racialized group is a group categorized or differentiated on the basis of membership in a racial group. This process becomes the basis through which groups are subjected to differential treatments. This is fairly known when we are talking about poverty, un/underemployment or incarceration, with statistics attesting to the overrepresentation of people of colour and indigenous communities in these instances. But food access is no different. In 2012, PROOF who conducts research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity, released their Report on Household Food Insecurity. The report revealed that 28.2% of surveyed indigenous households in Canada were food insecure, 27.8% for Black households respondents, and 19.8% for recent immigrants to Canada (less than 5 years) compared to a Canadian average of 12.6%.

Recognizing that food insecurity is also racialized would lead to a promotion of community-specific initiatives and move away forom a colour-blind approaches that leave so many of these communities' needs unmet. Adopting this notion would ensure that city planning policies were informed by that lens and propose solutions that lead to structural change, directly challenging systemic racism in the City.

For example, the Urban Heart Indicator that was used last year to determine the new Neighborhood Improvement Areas in Toronto limited its analysis of food security to the presence of healthy food stores. A more thorough analysis informed with the notion of racialized food insecurity at its core would have looked at ethnic composition of each neighborhood in conjunction with the cultural appropriateness of food, its affordability and income levels to name a few. This in turn would lead to the adoption of solutions at the city level that challenge the root causes of these inequities which are systemic in nature.


2. Increase the availability of trainings for social services and health care professional staff around food justice and inequalities. As first responders directly in contact with food insecure communities, these practitioners must be equipped with the tools to understand how structural racism operates and how this affects the dynamic of their work in these communities. The training we are hosting next week is but one example of the initiatives that should be more readily available across the city and that have the potential to truly change the narrative of food insecurity.

3. Increased city dedicated resources and staff (food justice/equity animators) to work with communities most impacted by food injustice to ensure that their voices are heard and are central to the solution process. From our experience, we see an increased difficulty of getting funding for community-led groups already doing a lot of the frontline food justice work, and more often than not as volunteers. Appropriate support must be given so that they are in a position to lead the charge.

When funds are made available, a common way for these unincorporated grassroots initiatives to receive them is to enter into a trustee relationship with a larger organization. But these relationships can put the grassroot organization in a vulnerable position, as paternalistic dynamics can easily arise, leaving the grassroots far from an empowering experience. Additionally, the paperwork and bureaucratic obligations when funds are made available can be so heavy that they take precious time away from the organization’s much needed groundwork. A funding stream at the city level more adapted to the structural nature of these grassroots would increase the impact of the City’s support.

Nydia Dauphin is the Food Justice Senior coordinator at FoodShare Toronto


Food Nation is here

Help us change the channel from Ford to Food!

Can you attend our Food Nation meetup and volunteer training Tuesday, July 15th? Learn more. Hundreds of Torontonians have already signed on as part of Food Nation. Help us reach even further.

Explore where Food Nation has been, endorse our platform, and share our proposals for change:

A campaign by Food Forward's Food Justice Committee.


A peek into Toronto's (potential) street food change

We're almost there!

After working to change street food by-laws since 2011 (and some of our members working even longer), things are looking up. Since this time, City Council has so far changed policies to allow diverse menus by street vendors, and eliminated unfair fees for vendors to hire workers. More is on the way thank to literally thousands of your letters, voices, emails, tweets, petition signatures.

It is time that the people who cook our food have a more just system to sell whichrespects different economic backgrounds, cultures and opportunities... And serves the public who wants diverse and affordable options.

Natalia Martinez speaks to the media while handing out free fruit to people in front of Toronto City Hall on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The "illegal" pop-up food cart was organized by Food Forward to draw attention to the city's antiquated street food rules. (Don Peat/Toronto Sun)

On March 18, councillors on the City's Licensing and Standards Committee will meet to review proposed by-laws that City staff and a several years-long working group have developed. The last few months have seen a much stronger consultation and development of policies leading to some proposals that could improve access to diverse food and food entrepreneurship

The highlights:

No new street food vendors have been allowed to sell in downtown wards 20, 27 and 28 for over a decade. The current proposal from City staff is to do away with that moratorium. Councillors will need to hear your voices in support of this change.

We need to see lots of new spots available for food carts to bring in opportunities for diverse food vendors. However the initial proposal is for only 10 new spots downtown and 10 elsewhere. Spots might be designated in a lottery system.

Street food will be allowed in any private property. Carts or trucks will only need a vendorsbusiness license, and they'll be able to work out any rental with the property owner. This so far has not been allowed in many cases - like in parking lots. It is quite a positive change. We'd like to help vendors connect with these new opportunities come spring if this passes.

City staff are wrestling with two options on food trucks - whether to allow them to stop on regular street parking, or to have a number of designated places to parking. Like food carts, they'll likely designate a number of trucks or spots to be allowed at first.

Restaurant owners need not worry, either way, food trucks will have to be 25 metres away from them. This is normal in many cities. 

If you have input or questions on these final policies, email Luke Robertson of Licensing and Standards at

Also consider emailing or calling city councillors with your thoughts. You can contact your own councillor, or start with those on the Committee which will be reviewing this first. 

You can also attend the public Committee meeting or even speak in support of positive recommendations on Tuesday March 18 at City Hall Committee room 1 (second floor) beginning at 9:30.

Bon appetit!


Free the Food Trucks! Welcome news from the City...

We wanted to share the good news that the City will finally be allowing food trucks in public spaces starting August 1 for a two month pilot project. A number of food trucks will be rotating through five parks in different parts of the City!

Councillors McMahon and Colle have been pushing for a pilot since earlier this year when we met with members of the Toronto Street Food Project and food truck entrepreneurs. Find more information in their below. The councillors are still pushing for more locations and more trucks to be included. 

Please check out the trucks to support the street food pilot when it starts in a week. We hope this opens the discussion on even more street food possibilities for Toronto... and hope that City Licensing + Standards staff and Committee keep their word to finally resolve other issues like unfair fees for street food employees, and more spaces for innovative food carts and trucks to open up more opportunities for young and new Canadians.

We've been pushing for better street food and working with Councillors and partners for two of Food Forward's three years so far. Come celebrate our third anniversary with food + drink from a wide variety of awesome food ventures and mingle with some of Toronto's coolest food organizers. Get your ticket for August 7 now:

For an opportunity to see the kind of street food we wanted legalized in Toronto, check out the innovative event Agak, Agak, Hawk! by our partner, the Chop Suzies, in Regent Park, August 9.

See you on the 7th!

 Media Advisory / Photo Opportunity:

Free the Food Trucks! City of Toronto Launches Pilot Program

TORONTO, July 24, 2013 - Starting August 1st and running for two months, food trucks will begin to operate in some of our parks around the City. Since early 2013, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) and Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) have been urging the City to launch a pilot project that would see food trucks operating in more locations in the City. The Councillors have been pushing Municipal Licensing and Standards (ML&S) to cut the red tape that has been holding back this sector of the food industry. Currently, food trucks are restricted to operating in private parking lots and at events, often facing large rental or participant fees, in addition to their City of Toronto permit, which does not allow them to sell on City property.

WHAT: Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Josh Colle will be celebrating the launch of the City’s Food Truck Pilot Program with lunch at one of Toronto’s food trucks

WHERE: Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall

WHEN: Thursday, July 25 at 12:15 P.M.

Food trucks and carts have been over-regulated in Toronto and this pilot project provides an opportunity to expand healthy and diverse food choices for Torontonians. Around the world, cities are embracing the power of street food to make their public spaces and urban culture more vibrant. Toronto is taking a step forward, but we are still far behind other cities such as Portland, Hamilton, New York, Dallas, and Vancouver, where food truck programs have been widely popular and a huge success.

"It is exciting that the City is taking these long overdue steps to support small businesses and entrepreneurs and to give residents the diverse food options that they clearly want," said Councillor Colle.

For the rest of the summer and part of the fall, a number of food trucks will begin to operate in five park locations: Woodbine Park, Sherbourne Commons, Roundhouse Park, Canoe Landing, and Allen Gardens. Some participating truck vendors include the following: The Feisty Jack, Urban Smoke BBQ, Stuft Gourmet Sausages, Caplansky's, Gourmet Gringos, Beach Boys, The Food Dudes, Pretty Sweet Bakery, Gourmet B1tches, Bestia, Crossroads Diner, Hogtown Smoke, Choco Churros, Tiny Tom Donus, and Localista.

"Animating our public spaces and bringing diversity to our culinary options will only add to the vibrancy of our terrific city! This has been a long time coming and we are very hopeful that this will evolve into a permanent program" said Councillor McMahon.

Councillors McMahon and Colle are continuing push ML&S staff to broaden the program to include more locations around the city and more food truck participants.

For more information:

Councillor McMahon at (416) 392-1376

Councillor Colle at (416) 392-4027