food justice


Not Just Talk - getting to the roots on Feb16

Tanya Fields is a woman who inspires me these days.

Her work with the BLK ProjeK is the kind that empowers people and communities - in particular, underserved women of colour - to take back control of this broken food system and lead with the change they want to see.

It was because of this type of food movement work, most likely, that she was invited, and then uninvited to be a featured speaker at TedXManhattan: Changing the way we eat. Her organzing on good food and food jobs in the Bronx is bringing hundreds together while creating positive change. It shows the difference a person can make while giving it what you've got, and developing some skills and ideas with the community.

An open letter from Tanya to the organizers regarding the dis-invite was when the issue and Tanya's work came to my attention. An apology and reconcilitation note later came, with the hope of focusing on stronger attention to issues of food justice and race using a critical lense. A food movement that doesn't focus on realities of economies, poverty, racism, or privilege isn't much of a movement at all. 

Their vision for a way forward could in fact be a model for those working in Toronto as well:

"The consequences of and responses to this action have provided a powerful message about how fundamental issues of race, representation, cultural divide and fear affect our work and must be addressed, respectfully and honestly... We are determined to harness the power and commitment that was so clearly expressed and use it as fuel for positive solutions as we move forward."

After the invitation was revoked, Tanya went ahead to organize an event Not Just Talk: Food in the South Bronx, at the same time as TEDxManhattan. Organizers of each, however, will now be attending each others' events and sharing dialogue.

So here in Toronto, Lettuce Connect with the Academy of the Impossible is co-hosting a viewing party of the Ted talks on Saturday February 16th - there I'll say a few words on my learning on the ability to likewise expand food justice work in Toronto. Meanwhile, we have the Live Stream details from Tanya to view Not Just Talk from the winterty comfort of home. Both run all day, and it should be easy to catch some of either or both events.

Our food connections and diverse work need strong community roots. 

Check out the details of these events, as well as Canadian Organic Growers' conference the same day, and let's all have a weekend of practical learning together.

Darcy Higgins, Executive Director of Food Forward can be reached at

Learn about the Growing Food & Justice Initiative .


Growing Food & Justice Initiative (GFJI)

Food Forward has been supporting the development of the Growing Food and Justice For All Initiative (GFJI) Local Empowerment Group (LEG). Soon after our founding we began discussing the connections between food, equity and racism/oppression in Toronto, and soon connected with folks from Afri-Can Food BasketGreen Thumbs Growing Kids, and others who did early work in food justice and in forming GFJI and Toronto’s LEG. Food Forward staff and volunteers, Caitlin Langois Greenham, Linda Swanston, Vanessa Ling Yu, and Darcy Higgins (see here) have been working collaboratively to support the convening and strategic planning for our LEG, which plans to be an active food justice contributor in Toronto, connected as a strong partner of the international movement. In 2011, we provided anti-oppression training for Food Forward volunteers and members with positive interest, and a desire for more practical applications in community settings.

Most recently, Vanessa with others from Toronto visited Growing Power in Chicageo to attend GFJI’s Intensive Leadership Facilitator Training: A Dismantling Racism through the Food System to further develop her roster of knowledge and skills around racial healing through food, and connect with the broader community of food justice activists. We are also pleased to connect with Hurly Navarro-Meraveles, Project Coordinator of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) Positive Spaces Initiative and Food Forward advisor to deepen our examination of gender and sexual identities and newcomer communities, as we make anti-oppression relevant to our every day work together.

In 2013, we are excited to move forward with further anti-oppression training for Food Forward members and friends and supporting diversity work in the food and environmental movements with our partners in collaboration with the Sustainability Network and significant volunteer support from Sabrina Bowman. We also look forward to sharing key next steps for action from the growth of the GFJI network locally and welcome further participation. GFJI Toronto LEG does not yet have a website, so contact Darcy to get involved and join the listserv. 


Calling for unanimous support to GrowTO

Food Forward has called on councillors to fully endorse Scaling Up Urban Agriculture today as the Parks and Environment Committee discusses a report moved by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon highlighting recommendations from the GrowTO Action Plan.

We have written in support of the recommmndations after a remarkable show of interest in urban agriculture this summer and increasing support over the last decade in the form of several reports, city strategies, community programs and new enterprises. We are looking forward to see the City will take another step forward in its support of an urban agriculture program and a co-ordinated office. 

As the number of Torontonians vulnerable to food insecurity increases due to the economic situation, urban agriculture can be part of a strategy for increasing access to good food, and create jobs in all parts of the City. 

To do this, we'll need to see an increase in support and leadership from the City to end any unnecessary hurdles faced by community members, agencies, or budding entrepreneurs. The City support within a number of divisions that exists has been helpful in producing results. Stumbling blocks are sometimes faced in Parks, due to lack of City staff resources, and will erode somewhat in 2013 due to the loss of the Live Green animator program. The recommendations also aim to review policy change to support land use and sale of food.

We hope for unanimous support and a strong call from the Committee to see a report return in good time that will bring enhanced City support and a clear, simple program to respond to Torontonians' action in the growing and distribution of food.

Find Councillor McMahon's letter and motion and the GrowTO Action Plan and its many more recommendations for Toronto's food and political community. And more here on our past urban ag work.


Canada's boyfriend on World Food Day Toronto

Thanks to George Stroumboulopoulos for joining us by video for World Food Day Toronto in Regent Park. Strombo, an Ambassador for the UN FAO's World Food Programme, speaks to the need of good food access in Toronto and to a food movement that can work together to make change, especially with government. Please take a listen and share this message.