Toronto Food Strategy


Councillor McMahon speaks on Food Justice Day 2015

Food Justice Proclamation

May 5, 2015

Speaking notes for Councillor McMahon


Welcome, introduction and thank you

-       Thank you to everyone gathered, especially Food Forward for creating an opportunity to talk about food justice in Toronto


Why talk about food justice in Toronto?

-       Communities across Toronto face unequal access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.

-       12% of people in Toronto face food insecurity (Tarasuk 2014)

-       Last year there were over 800,000 visits to food banks across Toronto and this number is increasing annually (Daily Bread Food Bank 2014)

-       Unequal access to healthy food reflects both economic challenges as well as geographic challenges.

-       Racialized communities across our City face additional barriers to accessing food, in particular Aboriginal and African Canadian communities (Tarasuk 2014).

-       Some communities in Toronto face longer travel times to grocery stores, this access correlates with low income and unequal access to transportation and social services (Hertel et al, 2014; Toronto Public Health 2015).


Toronto's leadership on food policy

-       Toronto's Food Charter signed in 2001, supports Canada's commitment to "the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger" (Toronto Food Charter 2010).

-       The Toronto Food Policy Council and Food Strategy, working with community and City partners have done important work to improve food security in Toronto: mobile good food market, student nutrition program, community gardens and urban farms, farmers markets, diverse and thriving food retail sector all contribute to making Toronto a leader on this issue.

-       Communities across Toronto are working hard on food justice. For example, the Black Creek Community Farm convenes a food justice committee in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, community food programs in Malvern, Parkdale, and Rexdale bring people together to plan and implement food projects, indeed this work is happening all across the City

-       There is more to be done, and we have to work together, collaboratively.


The City wants to partner with Toronto's food community to address food justice

-       Some promising initiatives on the horizon. Food security is a pillar of the Mayor's Poverty Reduction Strategy. Through the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the City's Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy there will be opportunities further strengthen this work. Many of you have provided input into this process.

-       The Toronto Agriculture Program is exploring access to new space for community gardening and urban farms – ie on Hydro corridors and in City Parks.

-       Toronto Public Health and the TTC in partnership with FoodShare are launching a new mobile good food market



-       Food justice is tied to many of our pressing priorities at the City of Toronto: secure employment, housing, and access to services.

-       We will need to work collaboratively on these priorities to realize food justice in Toronto.

-       Thank you for organizing this reception, thank you for attending.



Calling for unanimous support to GrowTO

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.

Find Councillor McMahon's letter and motion and the GrowTO Action Plan and its many more recommendations for Toronto's food and political community. And more here on our past urban ag work.


Acting on local food at City Hall

Last Tuesday, the Government Management Committee reviewed a status report on the City's Local Food Procurement Policy, which was create in 2008, with a goal of the City of Toronto getting to 50% local food purchasing. Tuesday's update on this progress contained a consultant's report stating that the goal of buying 50% local was not yet practical, but staff still recommended a way forward: the City's three main departments that purchase food for young children, those in long-term homes and shelters should continue to work toward increasing their local buying.

This recommendation was not passed at the Committee, under a tied vote. In fact, Councillor Doug Ford commented that the local food policy should be done away with all together.

The tie means the policy goes to Council for final decision. Though it may not be perfect policy, it is critical that the City continue to increase its purchase of local food to support public health, our environment and our local economy. One in eight Toronto jobs is in the food sector, and dissolving the existing policy would reduce City support for local business.

Tell Councillors today to support the Local Food Procurement Policy, and that:

- Good food jobs are important and according to City staff, increasing local food content provides greater economic and business opportunities for food processors in Toronto.
- The report recommends no cost increases and so voting for the policy would not affect the City Budget
- Buying locally means reducing distance to cut our carbon footprint and keep our dollars in the local economy

You can reach them by:
- Phone - Email - Tweet- Facebook - Meeting -

Council contact info:
Write all councillors by copying this list:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

You can also sign this petition from the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Food Forward has had many discussions about local, sustainable food procurement by institutions at different levels of government also including hospitals, universities and schools. It just makes sense, and we hope to support continued progress. We will continue to discuss this issue in the provincial election, where all parties have expressed interest in buying local if not more.


11 ways to change the food system in 2011

Everyone can make an difference in our food system and different folks can do different things. Here are some ideas:

1. Participate in a community garden. Winter's a good time to think about the gardens in your area or work with neighbours to plan a new one. I've spoken with many new City Councillors interested to help!

2. Volunteer with a local organization. Food Forward is looking for volunteers, and so are many others!

3. Buy local, sustainable. Local Food Plus wants this to be your New Year's Resolution, and you may be able to make the switch to buying $10/week. Try out some of Ontario's seasonal crops like root vegetables this winter which are hardy and often inexpensive.

4. Make a contribution to a local organization. January is the right time to sign up as a monthly contributor for Food Forward or to support another local cause.

5. Support Toronto's Food Strategy and policies that will provide better food access in Toronto by writing your Mayor and Councillor with some ideas or attend budget consultation to make sure food programs remain and grow. Check our policy priorities and contact us for help or ideas.

6. Make a new connection: if you're currently volunteering or working in agriculture, community kitchens, or buying from farmer's markets, make the connection to another link in the food system chain to learn and brainstorm.

7. Intern with a local farm or food co-op or other business to get your hands dirty with those shaping the new food economy.

8. Tweet away ... share links about global issues and local solutions on your social media accounts. We'll keep sharing lots @pushFoodForward and on Facebook (see top right for links).

9. Feed yourself right. Give up that resolution to diet that won't last more than a week and think about how to make healthy choices that will last through the year.

10. Spend time to enjoy food and consider its journey to your plate by hosting or participating in a potluck. It could be a simple event to start with a couple of friends. See how local food actionist Emily Van Halem does this, in her blog post at Feel Good Food.

11. Share this post with a friend and comment below. Let us know what you've been up to and how you're growing better food.