Urban agriculture

Nov
8

How do our gardens grow?

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.

Aug
15

Food Forward Outstanding Member: Linda Swanston and Elena Hall

Recognizes the commitment and contributions of a Food Forward individual member towards our mission, by supporting the design and implementation of our projects, development, capacity, and/or outreach. Also considers independent work the individual has contributed to related good food projects or policies through education, advocacy, and making connections.

We have two selections who have both contributed immensely to Food Forward and to the broader community. In one short and action packed year, Elena Hall has visioned, planned, and broken ground for the first hospital food garden in Toronto.

Working in partnership with the Scadding Court Community Centre to secure a garden plot, Elena recruited over 20 volunteers to the Feed to Seed team and coordinates twice-weekly gardening sessions. Members from across the hospital community are involved, patients, staff, and survivors. The food is used in the ELLICSR kitchen for cooking demonstrations for community members touched by cancer, and the remainder of the harvest is donated to the Fort York Food Bank.

With an ambitious agenda to obtain onsite garden space and bring good fresh sustainable food into hospital kitchens across the University Health Network Elena is truly passionate in her commitment to good food in healthcare, organizing the Seed to Feed garden outside of her full-time role as a clinical study coordinator.

Elena came to Food Forward as a nutritionist interested in improving food, especially in her work at hospitals. She has been a committed volunteer with Food Forward, and especially in creating events, discussions, and connecting players to advocate and change food at hospitals. Using these connections, she created partnered with Scadding Court after a Foodie Drinks event, starting a unique hospital-community centre partnership to make things happen.

Elena has worked with our other awardee, Linda Swanston, whose early leadership within Food Forward brought the idea to lead our work on improving hospital food. Her work - solely volunteering - has pushed this agenda, writing blogs, hosting events, and getting media coverage in the City, and connecting players and moving things forward behind the scenes.

In addition to this, Linda has worked with us to prioritize a discussion of food justice to the forefront of the food movement in Toronto. After connecting on the need for discussion on food and racism, we soon connected with the Growing Food and Justice Initiative, where Linda spent a significant amount of work to support the group to accomplish its goals.

She has been a supporter of Food Forward since the beginning, and has brought critical feedback, guidance and action in our work. This includes advocacy and our efforts to reach out and grow the organization and the movement. And she’s been personally supportive of many of us. We would like to provide them with the Food Forward Oustanding Member Awards.

Check out some of our work on better food in health care and Linda's blogs.

Jul
5

Imagine a garden in every school

Green Thumbs Growing Kids hosted an event June 19th to launch their new provincial campaign, Imagine a Garden in Every School. The campaign aims to create broader community support and unite engaged communities for school food gardens “to share resources, ideas and experience, to work together on advocacy, and to make it easier for people across Ontario to start and maintain school food gardens.”

Dr. Bondar speaks to the crowd - by Orla Hegarty

The event itself featured Dr. Roberta Bondar as the keynote speaker. Dr. Bondar engaged the entire student population of Rose Avenue Public School at an assembly by telling jokes and making the connection between her career as the first neurologist in space and her scientific research into the importance of environmental stewardship. The event was attended by Minister of Education, Hon. Laurel Broten and by members of Manulife Financial who pledged $10 000 to creating school gardens. Food Forward, a supporter of this campaign, also had a number of members in attendance.

The assembly was followed by a colloquium featuring speakers from a variety of sectors in the broader food community, including David Crichton (Principal, Rose Avenue Public School), Richard Christie (Senior Manager, Sustainability Office, Toronto District School Board), Sunday Harrison (Director and Founder, Green Thumbs Growing Kids), Meredith Hayes (Schools Program and Student Nutrition Senior Manager, FoodShare), Susan Turner (Community Mission Specialist, Heart and Stroke Foundation), Dr. Roberta Bondar (The Roberta Bondar Foundation), Sarah Vogelzang (Nutrition Promotion Consultant, Toronto Public Health), and Ravenna Nuaimy-Barker (Director, Sustain Ontario).

Each speaker, in their own way, touched on the importance of active learning outside of the classroom and in teaching children about where their food comes from and how to grow it. They stressed that garden programming in schools is the best way to educate about healthy foods, which all children have the right to. In moving forward Dr. Bondar highlighted a report by the Working Group on Environmental Education of which she is a part, entitled, Shaping Our Schools, Shaping Our Future. The report is a key policy tool to help incorporate garden programming in Ontario schools. Ravenna Nuaimy-Barker highlighted work being done by the Children and Youth Food Network as part of an initiative of a group of organizations, including Sustain Ontario and FoodShare, providing moral support and inspiration and as a way to connect, share, and move forward. We should continue to support these two mechanisms towards creating gardens in schools across Ontario.

Educational school garden at the Winchester Street School - by Orla Hegarty

The event really highlighted all of the incredible work being done by Green Thumbs Growing Kids and the support that can be generated within the schools, the surrounding communities, and the broader good food community. There were certainly teachers and principals present at this event who were inspired by the stories they heard and who would love to help facilitate the expansion of this type of programming, not only in Toronto but across Ontario as well. Community support is instrumental in the creation and maintenance of school gardens. If you are interested in supporting this campaign find out if there is a school garden in your neighbourhood that you can help to support!

The excitement displayed by the Rose Avenue P.S. EcoTeam and the student Garden Researchers group was contagious and they were able to prove that children will take great pride in their garden if those resources are made available to them. With the support that Green Thumbs is receiving from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and all of these supporting organizations, the goal of this campaign will hopefully be realized!

Visit http://www.kidsgrowing.ca for more information on Green Thumbs Growing Kids and their campaign.

Jessica Reeve is presently working as the Ward Organizing Coordinator for Food Forward

Jun
22

Hospital food 2.0

We're pleased to share this update from our Town Hall event, Healthy Food, Healthy Living: Strengthening Local Food Connections in Healthcare.

There was great coverage in The Grid with their reporter's learnings from the event. Food Forward is following-up to build on the momentum by considering creative ways to support better food in health care, with an "Idea Potluck" on June 26th, from 5:30-6:30 downtown. It will be a facilitated conversation and brainstorming session to establish where everyone is at in their work, where we want to go, and how best to help each other get there. Contact Linda (linda@pushfoodforward.com) or Elena (elena@pushfoodforward.com) for more information and to let us know you're coming!

Thanks to Sustain Ontario for partnering and recording... check their website for Powerpoint information and a video about the Seed to Feed Project with the University Health Network and Scadding Court Community Centre.

Taking the “hospital” out of hospital food

BY: JODIE SHUPAC 

Hospital food. For some, the very term sounds like an oxymoron. But healthcare institutions in Ontario are starting to pick up some of the foodie trends that have become so pervasive in society of late.

Values like local, fresh, healthy and, of course, deliciousness are beginning to enter the hospital sphere, with Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital leading by example.

At last night’s panel discussion on strengthening local food connections in healthcare, held in a committee room at City Hall, the 20-odd attendees got the chance to, as moderator and Food Forward volunteer Linda Swanston put it, “play city councilors.”

Seated at spiraled tables and lavish leather chairs, participants listened to Heather Fletcher, Food Services Manager at St. Michael’s Hospital, as well as Franco Naccarato, program manager at the Greenbelt Fund, and Elena Hall, Green Team Member/Seed to Feed Organizer at Princess Margaret Hospital, discuss the methods and outcomes of incorporating fresh, local food into healthcare institutions, and got the opportunity to submit questions on the topic.

Here’s what I learned:

Read more: http://www.thegridto.com/city/local-news/taking-the-hospital-out-of-hospital-food/