food access

Sep
25

Can we get an effective Local Food Act passed this Fall?

It appears the Local Food Act is back on the table and could be passed by the end of this Fall. The purpose of the Act is to do some pretty neat things:

  • foster successful and resilient local food economies and systems throughout Ontario;
  • increase awareness of local food in Ontario, including the diversity of local food; and,
  • encourage the development of new markets for local food. 

The focus is on expanding local food... bringing more to market, specifically through more marketing, and by the setting of goals or targets by the Minister of Food & Agriculture “with respect to” local food (assume they mean amount purchasing) at public institutions – ministries, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, municipalities, long-term care homes.

For a potentially groundbreaking Act on food, that isn’t very meaty. It also doesn’t address food access or sustainable agriculture, and doesn’t properly do what's within the government's power to help spur new jobs. 

We’ve been asking, with hundreds of Torontonians and Ontarians, for the Local Food Act to be improved to create good jobs. The Government of Ontario shares the priority of job creation. This Fall, ministers have all been tasked with looking at their programs through a “jobs lens”, which is exactly what we proposed to improve the Local Food Act. We petitioned to do this by several means.

Our proposals were brought up positively multiple times in the Legislature by MPPs in initial debate on the Act. Sustain Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and many others have also been calling for the Act to do more good. The opposition parties are also calling for more, and the government has expressed openness to these ideas. The NDP priorities for the Act have been stated – they’re great. So are the PC’s – they will be proposing amendments as well at Committee debate which could happen quitesoon.

In addition, the Government has launched the Local Food Fund, with ten million dollars per year that groups and businesses can apply to in order to support and improve local food all across the sector. The Fund is broad, exciting and could spark some really interesting work. The government has clearly listened in the creation of this Fund.

As political winds align to get the Local Food Act back on the agenda in the next month, let’s build on the success to further strengthen this Act so it works to address a more prosperous local, healthy, equitable food system.

In a letter to Food Forward before being elected, Premier Wynne promised just that - a strengthened Local Food Act that would "develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food”, as well as to “Streamline regulations that impact the Agri-food industry...and develop a single window information approach to government.

 

These are important. So is dealing with financial and health inequities as food bank use continues to rise.


There are a few amendments that could improve the Act at this point. We propose these:

 

  • Support entrepreneurs by conducting a review of small business regulations and creating a single window approach to ensure that small-scale food and farm enterprises have a level playing field and fair chance. Innovative entrepreneurs people in the City as well as farm country are having a tough time even finding out about regulations to meet, as they're busy trying to improve the food system.

 

  • Create more local food jobs by mandating the creation of goals and targets to be set and defined, and put in place more support for institutions to meet them. Current language of the Act means it is up to the Minister of the day to create targets if they wish.

 

  • Increase healthy food access by allowing farmers to receive tax credits for donating to food banks, and also to other community food programs including community kitchens, meal drop-ins, and active living programs for children and seniors. Food banks, community health and food centres, and grassroots programs are all in need for various programs, especially as the model of food banks evolve and the government improves social assistance.

 

The Committee on Social Policy will be hearing your voices on the Act. Please contact these MPPs to ask that such amendments be enacted.

 

kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org, ernie.hardeman@pc.ola.org, bbalkissoon.mpp@liberal.ola.org, ted.chudleigh@pc.ola.org, mcolle.mpp@liberal.ola.org, vdhillon.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org, dinovoc-qp@ndp.on.ca, hjaczek.mpp@liberal.ola.org, jane.mckenna@pc.ola.org, pmiller-qp@ndp.on.ca, jschein-qp@ndp.on.ca, jvanthof-qp@ndp.on.ca, bob.baileyco@pc.ola.org, william_short@ontla.ola.org

Aug
29

Building Roots: Empowering Food-Accessible Development

Find Building Roots on its new website

 

Follow Building Roots on Facebook! Twitter!

Contact us: darcy@pushfoodforward.com, lisa.ann.kates@gmail.com

Many Torontonians young and old lack access to healthy food, but also to ways of growing, preparing, or selling it. That is especially true in Toronto's towering apartment complexes, where neighbourhoods with high immigrant, low income, and racialized populations often exist with much greater distances to food stores, commercial kitchens, urban agriculture, and other food infrastructure.

In Toronto's building boom, are we creating condos that will lead to the same problems? Can we plan food access now that help prevent future "food desserts"?

New developments can benefit and empower their future residents and surrounding communities to improve access to healthy food and places to grow, cook, buy and sell.

Building Roots hopes to achieve stronger access to healthy food for children and familities in diverse and low income neighbourhoods in Toronto through the incorporation of community and commercial food infrastructure being built into new housing developments... things like healthy and diverse food stores, community/commercial kitchens, community food hubs... urban agriculture, street food, or developing and funding others spaces for food programs.

Check out our primer on Building Roots, with what we want to see happen and some examples.

We are working with the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council to train residents in how to advocate for food infrastructure in their neighbourhoods - starting in St. James Town, Downtown East, and Don Mills and Sheppard. We are also helping to facilitate knowledge transfer among stakeholders, so builders and planners and city councillors can work with communities for better food access.

Our Symposium was a great success! Thank you to Daniels Corporation and all participants.

Click here 

Our toolkit (under construction) is here to support you to build roots in your neighbourhood - learn how to advocate for places to grow, cook, buy and sell food in your neighbourhood:

Building Roots Toolkit

 

Look for coming workshops for residents for Don Mills and Sheppard at the Oriole Community Centre and for St. James Town at the Food Forward centre.

 

Resources to come:

- Listserv

- Workshops

- More models and ideas

May
16

Our fruit stands up to authority

Wednesday was a busy day with Food Forward members setting up a simple food cart as an example of something common in other cities but not allowed here.

The City told media that its report on street food would now in come in Spring 2014. The report was ordered by City Council for Fall of 2011. However, staff and councillors are working on a pilot for this summer under existing regulations.

See the previous blog below to email your councillor to ask for action. Join our CSA to help us keep advocating.

Media attention:

The Star: Toronto food cart fight (front page GTA)

CTV Toronto: Adding healthy food to curbside fare live at noon, and evening news

Toronto Sun: Illegal food cart protest to hit City Hall and Toronto's street food by-laws protested

CBC Toronto News at 6: Street food fight

24 hrs (front page)

Toronto Metro: Sweet! Free fruit for all has passerby stoked

NewsTalk 1010: Illegal fruit stand used to push for better street food

National Post: Advocacy group hands out fruit in front of City Hall to protest limits on Toronto food trucks

CBCnews: Group wants city to approve more diverse food carts

CP24

CBC Radio

Global News Toronto

CP24

AM640

CBC Here and Now (interview Darcy Higgins)

Radio-Canada Champ Libre (interview Sasha McNicoll)

NewsTalk 1010 Jim Richards Show (interview Darcy Higgins)

 

Mar
18

No time to wait on food policy - how everything's coming together

It's quite a time for food security, as the provincial government speaks to several ways of moving forward, criss-crossing policy reports, legislation, and ideas on food policy. We've also never had a civil society so engaged in working towards food policy change.

The government is finally planning to move forward on social assistance through the results of its review, which had key recommendations on employment and rates of support. We've participated in advocacy on raising rates from the Put Food in the Budget campaign, and hope it moves forward.

Meanwhile, a government commissioned report was titled "No Time to Wait"... it's a strategy released for policy actions for healthy kids, with a preventative health focus. and food is the main and most extensive set of its recommendations. One of the proposals is to ban marketingof junk food to children. Something already proposed in a private member's bill by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese.

Another of its proposal is to provide incentives for food businesses to support community-based food programs, which has been proposed in a private member's bill by PC MPP Bob Bailey.

Minister of Health Deb Matthew agreed that we they need to move now as the title suggests. 

The PCs last week released an agriculture strategy with some excellent ideas on supporting food processors and local farmers with a new food hub, and a review of regulations, something we're also working to advance.

Further still, we are expecting the re-release of the Local Food Act, something Premier (and food+ag minister) Kathleen Wynne has committed to strengthening.

This approach to food policy coming from here and there and everywhere isn't new for governments at all levels, which respond to food through all sorts of departments and policies. 

The benefits of integrating food policy however have been touted at all levels, by Food Secure Canada and Sustain Ontario, and has been done to an extent at the municipal level, with a Food Strategy for the City of Toronto.

Bringing the pieces of food policies on the table under a broader provincial food strategy would help streamline the solutions that could support everyone from farmers to eaters to develop a healthier province. It would also recognize the ability of one policy to have multiple benefits for several desirable social outcomes.

It's an excellent time to move on food policy for several reasons:

  •  New food policies meet Premier Wynne's objectives and throne speech, like supporting job growth in rural Ontario and supporting small businesses to create jobs in the City and suburbs, while also creating a more socially just province.
  •  Everything's coming together - food policies are making headway through all of these recommendations and the government understands the benefit of fast action.
  •  As parties begin to cooperate more (it's actually happening, a little!) in this minority government, we can take look to food policies that will get support from multiple parties like the ones we're advocating for. And all MPPs will see the differences these policies can make in their communities.
  •  A Local Food Act is to be launched from a Premier who says she is ready to listen to Ontarians... the more ambitious the Act, the more results we get for jobs and health outcomes.

Three policies we've landed on that would create jobs in good food have shown growing resonance from workers and entrepreneurs, organizations, and the people of Ontario who have signed on from across the province. We think these have great a chance of support from different parties in the Act and in the budget:

  1. Public institutions purchase of local, socially and environmentall sustainable food;
  2. A review of regulations that hamper small food and farm enterprises;
  3. Support and funding for community food programs and social entrepreneurs in low income communities.
 
Food Forward and folks from around the province are ready to promote legislation that can get these things done, to show examples of good food policy in action and hopefully in a more connected and strategic way.
 

Darcy Higgins is the Executive Director of Food Forward. You can contact him at darcy@pushfoodforward.com