community food projects

Jan
18

Toronto won! From our newsletter...

I wasn't expecting to be writing you this morning, but good news deserves a quick note!

As you may have heard, Toronto City Council passed its budget, and in the process, reversed a significant number of proposed cuts to City programs.  Not just yesterday, but time after time over the last several months of the Core Service Review, funding and programs that were mulled and planned for cuts were saved.  These included food security related programs like urban agriculture, the Toronto Environment Office, neighbourhood Environment Days, community grants, student nutrition, small business development and festivals, the Riverdale Farm and fees at farmer's markets.  Yesterday, led by good food-friendly Councillors Colle, McMahon, Mihevc and others, additional funding was also restored to the Toronto Environment Office and Live Green Toronto community animators, as well as food security-related transit, child care and youth programs.

To think we've been in meetings and writing letters opposing these cuts since last summer... reviewing the above list shows the strength Torontonians have when we get involved and work together with neighbours and like-minded organizations. Thank you to all our members, supporters and partners for all the work you have done to keep Toronto healthy, compassionate and green.  I was lucky enough to share this congratulation on food security and related wins on CP24 last night.

Now is the right time to work on a positive and propositional agenda that builds a City with good food jobs and community food access, allowing ventures to flourish and a sustainable City to be revealed in every neighbourhood.
If you haven't joined us, please become a member, make a one-time or monthly donation, and get involved as we organize in wards throughout the City to make this vision possible.  It will certainly take good ideas, modest resources and more fun work! 

- Darcy Higgins, Executive Director

"So let us be loving, hopefuly and optimistic. And we''ll change the world." - Jack Layton

Click here to share this note with friends online

Jan
3

ELEVEN FOOD TRENDS FOR 2012

What's your twelfth?

St. James Town Good Food Project, September 2011

by Darcy Higgins

The last few years have seen Toronto, a City without the culinary tradition of other global cities, bringing good food to the forefront.  Our streets have seen witness to the rise of yum, with great restaurants, urban agriculture, food centres, neighbourhood dinners, farmer’s markets, community canning, and food boxes.

The past year was a particularly exciting year with campus, school and community food projects and micro-businesses filling gaps and needs throughout the City, and innovative events like Food Truck Eats, Scadding Court’s Live Local Marketplace, Leslieville’s Winter Food Mix, the Rusholme Park Supper Club, and the Toronto Underground Market.

The coming year will see a plethora of activity that keeps food climbing to the centre of Torontonians’ desires for wellness, sustainability, equity and new jobs.  Here’s a head’s up on 12 changes, trends and happenings to watch and participate in.

Street food  - After a breakthrough year for Toronto street food, 2012 has all the ingredients to really get things going.  Despite setbacks with vendors in some neighbourhoods, entrepreneurs like Suresh Doss and Marianne Moroney aren’t letting barriers get in their way.  City Council’s new mix of lefties keen on health and justice, conservatives that want bureaucracy out the door, and a new group of centrist foodies could make street food a plan that works.  With many advocate eaters in public and on Council, watch for the streets to finally heat up.

The suburbs – No, The Arcade Fire’s Grammy win of the same name was last year.  2012 is all about the exciting food projects bubbling up across the City, from Scarborough and North York, South Etobicoke and The Beaches.  Soon, few parts of the City will be left untouched. The good eats already available in the ‘burbs may also get the attention they deserve.

Backyard hens – With much back and forth behind the scenes over 2011, a backyard chicken allowance will soon be debated by Council.  Popular throughout the world for fresh eggs, many Torontonians have desired the ability to keep a couple of their own for a more healthy and ethical source of protein.  Expect them to share this view with their councillors.

Read more: http://www.womenspost.ca/articles/politics/eleven-food-trends-2012

Aug
30

Our Café in the Park

Food Forward has been supporting the community food connections to help get a unique project off the ground in St. James Town.  Our member and cafe organizer, Rebecca blogged about its launch event, intended to outreach and build further support.  Our Education Intern Caitlin Greenham and Executive Director, Darcy Higgins spoke at the event on engaging in the municipal budget and provincial election.  Partnerships made this happen, with resident support along with organizations such as Low Income Families Together (LIFT), Toronto Green Community and many neighbourhood organizations.  More photos will be shared on our Facebook group.

Below is from Rebecca's blog, The First Day:

 
While I haven’t been writing, I haven’t given in to despair. I have been busy working on a project to engage people to enjoy and advocate for for healthy affordable food. Our plan is to establish a co- operative community café where people from many economic and cultural groups can talk, organize, eat, drink, cook, listen to music, and join in growing and preparing food and buying affordable organic food through a food buying club.
 
Through the amazing connection-making powers of Nancy and Jo, and many others, we have built a strong network of people and organizations who are helping make this project happen (we’re still looking for more – if you’re interested!) On Friday August 19, we held the first trial run of the community café, and it was a fantastic success! 
While we work now on securing funds and a permanent space, we're also looking forward to the next café in the park, on September 23!

Thank you to Jeffrey Chan for the fantastic photos! http://www.snapclickpixel.com/

 
 

 


 

Jul
21

Major cuts on the table for city food programs

Toronto's food movement is using its roots to tell the City what it thinks about potential cuts to the City's urban agriculture program. With over 80 Torontonians registered to give remarks at Thursday's Parks and Environment Committee, community gardens, food centres, neighbuorhood groups, parks users and others are making themselves heard.

Toronto Council committees have been meeting this week to tackle the KPMG reports which have a small scope of reviewing existing City services upon whether they are mandatory, essential, traditional or "other". The Urban Agriculture program and Toronto Environment Office were put in the other category in the report.

Please sign and share this petition to save these programs.

More info on the process of the Parks and Environment Committee can be found here. The Executive Committee which will ultimately set much of the agenda meets next week and will also be open to deputations. The discussions will continue until the budget is decided early next year.

Food Forward congratulates our colleagues in this effort, especially Park People, LEAF, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Fresh City Farms and the Toronto Community Garden Network and the many other groups and individuals who have registered to depute and speak with councillors. Our Executive Director's deputation can be found below, and you can find watch speakers and deliberations live online Thursday, or in person on the second floor of City Hall.

Other resources:

2012 City of Toronto Budget and Parks overview from Park People: http://parkpeople.squarespace.com/parks-budget-watch/?SSScrollPosition=110

Core Service Review Summary to Parks and Environment Office from TEA:
http://www.torontoenvironment.org/servicereview/environmentoffice

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Dear Councillors and members of the public,

I am speaking on behalf of Food Forward, a Toronto-based community organization that provides a people's voice for a better food system. We are made up of members, and dozens of organizational and business partners throughout the City who believe that a healthy, local food system supports economic vitality and diversity in Toronto.
As an avid user of City parks, I appreciate the feedback from other deputants. As someone who has worked in urban forestry, I value the health and residential economic benefits that come from building a strong city tree canopy.

You may not have thought much previously about urban agriculture as a City service, and might be seeing it in this report and wondering if it “core”, and if it should be delivered.

Toronto has actually been providing support for urban agriculture for decades. I’ve been told stories from well before I was born about compost being delivered by the City for allotment gardens at Leslie Spit, with projects in High Park and Thorncliffe Park dating as far back as the 1970s.

Although it has a significant history in the City, today urban agriculture has completely taken off in Toronto like never before. I learn about new projects all the time, in all parts of the City, with neighbourhood groups looking to grow healthy food, and ending up in beneficial situations I’ve seen where seniors and youth work together, where safety has improved in parks, and even programs in which homeless Torontonians have found a place to feel safe and be proud of. We’re using the gardens as springboards for building more projects in our communities, like canning workshops to preserve good food year-round, and providing fresh food for local food banks.

These projects are making a difference in Regent Park, Bathurst and Finch, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Flemingdon Park, Willowdale, Scarborough Village, Jane and Finch, and on and on. Another way to see the interest is by looking at public comments in the Core Service Review where food security, environment, affordable and local food are mentioned countless times.

Work in community gardens now provides employment experience, as entrepreneurs start up companies throughout the City doing urban agriculture for profit, a number of which have begun in the last couple of years.

Toronto is not unique in its dramatic increase in chronic disease, especially in vulnerable areas where access to healthy food is hard to find. But it is a leader in community food and business solutions that are driving positive changes in peoples’ lives.

The Toronto Environment Office and Live Green have been big supporters of urban agriculture, their staff providing needed resources and connections to residents, and their grants helping to provide start-up supplies and valuable internships for youth. Live Green supported a community festival I helped organize in St. James Town that lent an opportunity for kids to interact, learn and become better connected with their community.

The removal of the Toronto Environment Office or urban agriculture program would mean significant loss for many communities who people are working so hard in our neighbourhoods to increase access to healthy, sustainable food.

May there be efficiencies in the urban agriculture program, opportunities to do it better and for the community to become even more engaged? Yes, probably. The biggest complaints I’ve heard are that there is not enough support, lists are too long, or there are too many barriers to get involved. But ignoring the potential for nuanced improvements by eliminating these and related programs as identified in the KPMG report would be the wrong approach.

Torontonians involved in food security have a very clear picture of what would work better: parks and public spaces where gardens, bake ovens, fruit trees, community kitchens and farmers’ markets are welcome and where community innovation and even small business can flourish.

We hope the Committee itself will have a serious discussion about these matters, and we offer our ongoing support to build a stronger, efficient and healthy Toronto.

Thank you.

Darcy Higgins
Executive Director, Food Forward