food policy


A peek into Toronto's (potential) street food change

We're almost there!

After working to change street food by-laws since 2011 (and some of our members working even longer), things are looking up. Since this time, City Council has so far changed policies to allow diverse menus by street vendors, and eliminated unfair fees for vendors to hire workers. More is on the way thank to literally thousands of your letters, voices, emails, tweets, petition signatures.

It is time that the people who cook our food have a more just system to sell whichrespects different economic backgrounds, cultures and opportunities... And serves the public who wants diverse and affordable options.

Natalia Martinez speaks to the media while handing out free fruit to people in front of Toronto City Hall on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The "illegal" pop-up food cart was organized by Food Forward to draw attention to the city's antiquated street food rules. (Don Peat/Toronto Sun)

On March 18, councillors on the City's Licensing and Standards Committee will meet to review proposed by-laws that City staff and a several years-long working group have developed. The last few months have seen a much stronger consultation and development of policies leading to some proposals that could improve access to diverse food and food entrepreneurship

The highlights:

No new street food vendors have been allowed to sell in downtown wards 20, 27 and 28 for over a decade. The current proposal from City staff is to do away with that moratorium. Councillors will need to hear your voices in support of this change.

We need to see lots of new spots available for food carts to bring in opportunities for diverse food vendors. However the initial proposal is for only 10 new spots downtown and 10 elsewhere. Spots might be designated in a lottery system.

Street food will be allowed in any private property. Carts or trucks will only need a vendorsbusiness license, and they'll be able to work out any rental with the property owner. This so far has not been allowed in many cases - like in parking lots. It is quite a positive change. We'd like to help vendors connect with these new opportunities come spring if this passes.

City staff are wrestling with two options on food trucks - whether to allow them to stop on regular street parking, or to have a number of designated places to parking. Like food carts, they'll likely designate a number of trucks or spots to be allowed at first.

Restaurant owners need not worry, either way, food trucks will have to be 25 metres away from them. This is normal in many cities. 

If you have input or questions on these final policies, email Luke Robertson of Licensing and Standards at

Also consider emailing or calling city councillors with your thoughts. You can contact your own councillor, or start with those on the Committee which will be reviewing this first. 

You can also attend the public Committee meeting or even speak in support of positive recommendations on Tuesday March 18 at City Hall Committee room 1 (second floor) beginning at 9:30.

Bon appetit!


Restaurants for Street Food

Open letter

Dear City of Toronto Council and staff,

As owners of restaurants and foodservice business, we wish to add our voices to the public call for diverse street food in Toronto.

Toronto is one of the most significant food hubs in North America. We have been working hard to offer Torontonians with diverse and delicious food options, and the City is quickly becoming a great place for good food. Food processing has created over 58,000 jobs in Toronto. These are well-paid jobs primarily in small and medium sized enterprises. Our food events, markets, and restaurants match our cultural diversity. But our street food scene is lacking because the rules are holding back entrepreneurs.

Restaurants and street food businesses can live and work together in Toronto. It is happening in cities across the United States and Canada that have eased long-standing red tape on street food to create new jobs. In Toronto, street food carts, food pop-up vendors, and food trucks are already working with restaurants, farmers, bakers, and others. Street food is being prepared in restaurant kitchens. Food truck events are helping foodies find out about restaurants in neighbourhoods they hadn’t been to.

Many of us and our parents actually started out in street food. It often provides a stepping stone for entrepreneurs, especially those new to Canada to generate income, pay taxes, and eventually open a restaurant. In Toronto, several successful restaurants have opened in the last two years through street food and pop-up food entrepreneurs. Street food businesses may be at a smaller scale but are legitimate businesses, which generate income to the City by paying for space, licenses and events fees (though receiving few City services).

Toronto’s regulations should allow street food in private and public realm spaces, including the inner suburbs and downtown where a moratorium has prevented new food trucks and carts. In Los Angeles, food trucks have produced a guide to being good neighbours, and have essentially self-regulated by deciding not to park near restaurants with similar menus. Many cities have created pods for several street food operators in the public realm.

Vendors should be allowed to sell a broad range of diverse foods without excessive menu restrictions. Other issues such as unfair fees for hiring street food workers should be addressed.

The City of Toronto can help foster a diverse street food culture - rather than holding it back - with a significantly improved regulatory environment that brings a place for all types of food businesses. We can’t wait to work together with our colleagues for the opportunities this will provide for entrepreneurs, tourists, and our residents.



Matt Basile, Lisa Marie

Sang Kim, Yakitori Bar, Seoul Food Co, Windup Bird Cafe

Patrick McMurray, Starfish and Ceili Cottage

Len Senater, The Depanneur


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.,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Free the Food Trucks! Welcome news from the City...

We wanted to share the good news that the City will finally be allowing food trucks in public spaces starting August 1 for a two month pilot project. A number of food trucks will be rotating through five parks in different parts of the City!

Councillors McMahon and Colle have been pushing for a pilot since earlier this year when we met with members of the Toronto Street Food Project and food truck entrepreneurs. Find more information in their below. The councillors are still pushing for more locations and more trucks to be included. 

Please check out the trucks to support the street food pilot when it starts in a week. We hope this opens the discussion on even more street food possibilities for Toronto... and hope that City Licensing + Standards staff and Committee keep their word to finally resolve other issues like unfair fees for street food employees, and more spaces for innovative food carts and trucks to open up more opportunities for young and new Canadians.

We've been pushing for better street food and working with Councillors and partners for two of Food Forward's three years so far. Come celebrate our third anniversary with food + drink from a wide variety of awesome food ventures and mingle with some of Toronto's coolest food organizers. Get your ticket for August 7 now:

For an opportunity to see the kind of street food we wanted legalized in Toronto, check out the innovative event Agak, Agak, Hawk! by our partner, the Chop Suzies, in Regent Park, August 9.

See you on the 7th!

 Media Advisory / Photo Opportunity:

Free the Food Trucks! City of Toronto Launches Pilot Program

TORONTO, July 24, 2013 - Starting August 1st and running for two months, food trucks will begin to operate in some of our parks around the City. Since early 2013, Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) and Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) have been urging the City to launch a pilot project that would see food trucks operating in more locations in the City. The Councillors have been pushing Municipal Licensing and Standards (ML&S) to cut the red tape that has been holding back this sector of the food industry. Currently, food trucks are restricted to operating in private parking lots and at events, often facing large rental or participant fees, in addition to their City of Toronto permit, which does not allow them to sell on City property.

WHAT: Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Josh Colle will be celebrating the launch of the City’s Food Truck Pilot Program with lunch at one of Toronto’s food trucks

WHERE: Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall

WHEN: Thursday, July 25 at 12:15 P.M.

Food trucks and carts have been over-regulated in Toronto and this pilot project provides an opportunity to expand healthy and diverse food choices for Torontonians. Around the world, cities are embracing the power of street food to make their public spaces and urban culture more vibrant. Toronto is taking a step forward, but we are still far behind other cities such as Portland, Hamilton, New York, Dallas, and Vancouver, where food truck programs have been widely popular and a huge success.

"It is exciting that the City is taking these long overdue steps to support small businesses and entrepreneurs and to give residents the diverse food options that they clearly want," said Councillor Colle.

For the rest of the summer and part of the fall, a number of food trucks will begin to operate in five park locations: Woodbine Park, Sherbourne Commons, Roundhouse Park, Canoe Landing, and Allen Gardens. Some participating truck vendors include the following: The Feisty Jack, Urban Smoke BBQ, Stuft Gourmet Sausages, Caplansky's, Gourmet Gringos, Beach Boys, The Food Dudes, Pretty Sweet Bakery, Gourmet B1tches, Bestia, Crossroads Diner, Hogtown Smoke, Choco Churros, Tiny Tom Donus, and Localista.

"Animating our public spaces and bringing diversity to our culinary options will only add to the vibrancy of our terrific city! This has been a long time coming and we are very hopeful that this will evolve into a permanent program" said Councillor McMahon.

Councillors McMahon and Colle are continuing push ML&S staff to broaden the program to include more locations around the city and more food truck participants.

For more information:

Councillor McMahon at (416) 392-1376

Councillor Colle at (416) 392-4027