food education


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 for more information on Green Thumbs Growing Kids and their campaign.

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


FoodShare asks Mayor and City of Toronto to Reconsider Cuts

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 ( ) 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
c: 647.448.2161



The Stop is Growing

Exciting news for Ontario communities as The Stop has announced their partners in expanding their innovative community food centre model. We hope to see partnerships develop to expand this model throughout different parts of Toronto as well.
See their media release:

Toronto, March 8, 2011 – The Stop Community Food Centre today announced that it has selected two Ontario towns, Perth and Stratford, as the first pilot sites to replicate The Stop’s innovative community food centre model, where food is used to build health, skills, and community. This unique and unprecedented collaboration is the first phase of a process that The Stop hopes will eventually bring the CFC model to every community in the country.

The Stop began life in the 1970s as one of Canada’s first food banks, and has been on the frontlines of confronting hunger ever since. Over the years, in order to confront the root causes of poverty, poor nutrition and social isolation, the non-profit organization has evolved into a thriving, holistic community centre offering a wide range of services and initiatives, including several community gardens and kitchens; after school cooking and gardening programs; a farmers’ market; community advocacy training; a nutritional support program for new and expectant mothers; and a sustainable food systems education centre. On a recent visit to Toronto, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said of The Stop: “I’ve travelled all around the world, and I’ve never seen anything like The Stop. Every city should have one.”

“The Stop is a grassroots approach to tackling some of the really big problems we have in our food system: diet-related illness, disappearing farmland, deepening poverty,” says Nick Saul, The Stop’s Executive Director. “There’s so much interest in food at the moment, and what good food can do for people and communities. We get calls and visits almost every day from other organizations interested in our approach.” Saul says the pilot process will be geared toward measuring the impact that multifaceted food centres can have on individual and community health to make the case that society needs to invest in more community food centres. “Traditionally, food programs have been run out of basements on a shoestring. We’re going to try to change that, to aim higher and to build a vibrant funding program that brings public and private money together to support these programs at the level they deserve.”

In the fall of 2010, a committee from The Stop, with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion’s Healthy Communities Fund and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, set out to locate other communities who could most effectively adapt The Stop’s model for their own needs. After considering several locations, Perth and Stratford were chosen because of the combination of need and local infrastructure, as well as the strong and diverse set of local partners who share The Stop’s philosophy and are prepared to drive the project forward.

In Perth, The Stop will be partnering with the Perth and District Food Bank, a food bank whose staff and volunteers have decided to re-invent their organization. The food bank has recently purchased a 1960s-era stucco church which, once it is retrofitted with a kitchen and garden, will house their CFC.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with The Stop to create a version of a community food centre that re-creates the powerful, and exciting programs that we see at The Stop, but that is also relevant to our community,” says Nancy Wildgoose, a local resident who has been one of the driving forces behind the CFC initiative in Perth. Wildgoose envisions dining programs for seniors, healthy cooking programs for young parents and kids living on low incomes, community gardening programs open to the whole community and social enterprise initiatives as some of the options that hold promise for Perth.

In Stratford, the United Way of Perth-Huron is the lead partner and will incubate the project. “Our Food Security Coalition has been working on re-imagining the approach to food security in our community. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance the range of programs that we can offer and develop other partnerships within the county,” says Ellen Balmain the Executive Director of the United Way of Perth- Huron. “We are thrilled that Stratford was chosen as one of the locations for The Stop’s project.” A location is currently being sought for the new project. Balmain points to the richness of the local food landscape, with the many successful restaurants, chef’s school and Slow Food movement as potentially powerful allies in this project. As with the Town of Perth, the rural environment will present new opportunities to address issues related to local farming and farm families.


Our letter in Toronto newspapers

Don't cut school breakfast programs

To the editor:

Canada is one of a few Western countries with no national school meal program.

Despite this, the Toronto Partners for Student Nutrition program, with funding from the province and the city, is able to help provide a healthy meal to 126,000 students, with a plan to get to 44,000 more.

The bulk of the funding for these programs comes through volunteer and neighbourhood fundraising, as well as contributions from parents.

Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown has recommended an increase in funding of just under $300,000 to extend this program to 30 more low-income school communities, where many children are at risk nutritionally.

Read more of Darcy's letter in Toronto Community News here .