Media Release from FoodShare:
FoodShare asks Mayor and City of Toronto to Reconsider Cuts:
Do Not Destroy the Social Safety Net – You will make Toronto Unliveable for All
FoodShare Executive Director Debbie Field today will today ask Mayor Ford and the Executive Committee to reconsider cuts to community programs and ensure that Toronto's social safety net is not destroyed, creating profound human cost more deep than any financial one, which would make Toronto unliveable for all.
Our city infrastructure is not just made up of roads and physical structures," says Debbie Field. "Over many years, the City of Toronto has pioneered community and social programs that support a human infrastructure, our social safety net. Today you are considering eliminating that social safety net, the very foundation that makes Toronto a leader and a great liveable city, a city that tourists want to visit and a city that companies want to do business in. I urge you to consider the great costs to our city if you dismantle this infrastructure. These costs will have compounding negative impacts that resonate for years to come. There's a much bigger budget balancing process at stake here, one that will impact every single citizen of Toronto, and the entire city's economic prospects for years to come."
In 1985, when then-Mayor Art Eggleton recommended that the City fund the creation of FoodShare, Toronto took a pioneering step in North America and the world, prioritizing food, and recognizing the multifaceted impacts it brings, to create strong healthy liveable communities and great cities.
This week in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is spearheading a movement to turn Chicago around using urban agriculture programs. As Toronto City Council considers cuts to vital community programs like urban agriculture, other cities have just deemed these programs essential services.
Toronto needs to remain a city that puts food first. Not only does food provide the nutrition on which good health is built, it also builds and sustains healthy vibrant cities. And as 'the great connector,' something all of us have in common, it becomes a conduit through which great things are made possible:
− Building diverse and inclusive healthy communities.
− Breaking down social isolation and creating vibrant public spaces.
− Reducing violence.
− Ensuring prosperity and a strong economy.
FoodShare and our community partners are participating in the deputation process at City Hall to be sure that Mayor Ford and City Council know that when Torontonians voted for cost cutting and lower taxes, Torontonians were not voting for a fire sale and wholesale destruction of services that we use each and every day. Community Program Funding supports core services not frills.
Toronto must not go down the path taken by Boston, New York City and Los Angeles," urges Field, "cities that have all made the mistakes you are considering - cutting community and student nutrition programs, selling off public properties, closing schools - only to and reinstate them years later at greater municipal costs, after realizing far more profound human costs. Do not be pound foolish. These are essential services."
FoodShare Toronto (www.foodshare.net ) is Canada's largest community food security organization. Now in its 27th year, FoodShare works with communities to strengthen and build the City of Toronto through improving access to healthy, affordable, food through community development programs, with a vision of Good Healthy Food for All. FoodShare's programs, which reach over 145,000 children and adults per month in Toronto, include fresh produce delivery, student nutrition, community gardening, composting, community cooking, and urban agriculture. With all of its work based on a capacity-building model and the distribution of tools and solution-resources for community adaptation, FoodShare's impacts grow exponentially, supporting and building healthy communities in Toronto.
Debbie Field, Executive Director
c : 416.576.7349
Adrienne De Francesco, Communications Manager
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.
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:
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.
Executive Director, Food Forward
This week marks a pile of Committee meetings, all looking at the City's Core Service Review and areas that consultants have identified for potential cuts. We have written to the Economic Development Committee to defend the City's work that enhances good food jobs, in response to the report by KPMG, which can be found in the links on the Committee's Agenda, on ED6.1 (see the bottom of the Agenda to see that our letter has been received). Also find links to write Councillors directly with your own thoughts.
We were caught somewhat off guard with the amount of proposed cuts in these reports, as we have been keen to discuss new good food initiatives in the City that could bring new jobs. "Hiddenlicious" mentioned in the letter is a proposal from the Food Strategy we'd like to pursue among many others, but for now, we have to keep what we have, and keep the vision of what could be...
Dear Councillor Thompson and Committee,
I am writing 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 throughout the City who believe in a healthy, local food system which supports economic vitality and diversity in Toronto.
We appreciate the difficult task which you as a Committee have been assigned.
Economic development is an important City function. Food, and its 58,000 jobs, is Toronto's second largest employment sector and a key part of economic development work by the City.
The small amount of staff the City dedicated to its Food and Beverage industry cluster has gone a long way in supporting area business growth. The department has been a key ally for local food business in promoting its products. It has also been essential in facilitating the development of new ventures, through seminars and the development of the Toronto Food Business Incubator, which is often cited as an innovative resource for entrepreneurs. The modest Incubator has a an excellent track record, initiating successful new businesses, which hire employees and have lasting positive benefits to the City.
Just last week, the City voted to renew its local food procurement policy with support of all members on this Committee, recognizing the ability of food to be an economic driver in the City of Toronto. Toronto's food economy, second largest in North America (to Los Angeles) is set to continue its growth, with very low business costs (KPMG Competitive Alternatives Study, 2006) and consumer trends which emphasize local, sustainable, healthy and diverse foods. We have seen City staff in this area being very supportive to new entrepreneurs through events and connections that they have supported us in, and hope Torontonians can continue to benefit from these business services.
Our other key area of interest in which the City supports Toronto business and community vitality is the event planning by the City. It is with great enjoyment that Torontonians attend City-sponsored festivals that highlight local food businesses and provide economic opportunities. These festivals show off Toronto's unique diverse food culture to residents and tourists and provide unique benefits to entrepreneurs, often immigrants, who are able to sell to thousands of happy customers and hire staff and purchase food for these events.
Councillors will recognize festivals that happen right outside City Hall, nearly daily occurrences in the summer, that are key spots for area workers and visitors. Events like Summerlicious also attract dollars to be spent at local businesses. We hope that a "Hiddenlicious" festival will one day highlight the hidden gems of Toronto's cuisine that lie especially throughout suburban Toronto where tastes of the world can be found in our own backyard. These services are part of the City's Food Strategy, which looks to leverage food in all City departments upon direction of the City Manager.
Jobs are the base of a strong City of Toronto. As KPMG's report states, reducing services identified in its report would have an impact on the Toronto economy. Continued support from the City will increase the exciting trend of its food sector, through work by economic development and culture, and continue to allow for an vibrant economy with good food jobs at its base.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Executive Director, Food Forward
Thank you thank you thank you.
Your support in writing councillors and spreading the word about Toronto's local food policy helped lead to a significant win at City Council today, reversing the threat to the local food procurement policy that arose at Committee two weeks ago (see The Sun article). Good food won 40 to 1, with 4 councillors absent.
The compromise and cooperation by Councillors that led to the motion's passage was a rarely seen occurrence over the extended Council session this week, and is a victory for Toronto's food movement, the environment and Toronto food sector jobs. Only minor changes were made to the final motion which can be found here.
A petition from the Toronto Environmental Alliance along with support from local food processors, Ontario farmers and the Toronto Food Policy Council helped to lead the charge. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon led the item and negotiations with others on Council and was applauded by colleagues for success on the motion. It proves that a united food movement with citizen action can make a difference at City Hall.
And that's an important note, because not all is good news today. The City's Core Service Review report by KPMG this morning took aim at Parks and Environment, suggesting that the City's urban agriculture program and the entire Toronto Environment Office might be areas to scrap. The report identifies urban ag as a "new and expanding activity area", though suggests it just might not be worth it. The Environment Office runs the Live Green program, which has provided significant grants and support for community food projects throughout the City, and our allotment and community gardens provide access for thousands growing their own food.
So we have to do this again and work together to tell our Councillors that urban agriculture, community food projects and a better environment are critical to the health of all Torontonians.
You can participate next by speaking at the Parks and Environment Committee on Thursday, July 21, when it discusses the core service review. You can register to depute, by contacting Kelly McCarthy by July 20 at noon, at firstname.lastname@example.org and 416-397-7796. It is important that residents discuss how they use these services, why they are important, and the direction they'd like to see the City take on enabling community kitchens, gardens, markets and bake ovens in our parks.
We can be a healthy City with a vibrant food culture prioritizing access for all, but only if we don't go backwards after so much success. The public feedback portion of the Core Service Review found food security mentioned as a priority time after time, with residents indicating their support for programs that address poverty and marginalization, affordable sustainable food and reduced bureaucratic blocks to community and business projects.
Let us know if you're interested in speaking at Committee, and we can help. After success today, but further threats to healthy food in Toronto, becoming a member of Food Forward is even more important. Join us and let's keep working together for positive change.