food policy


Event - The Future of the Food Sector

The food and agriculture sector from now on will look a lot different than it has for the last fifty years - and the young leaders in this forum are guiding the way.

Our speakers include those developing programs and policies that are changing the way we see the food system while doing work that will transform how we understand health, food access, community and sustainability. They will share a wealth of knowledge and ideas in leading-edge programs and policy frameworks being tried & tested in Toronto and Ontario universities, municipalities, non-profits and businesses.

Topics covered will include urban agriculture, local sustainable food procurement, food literacy and municipal policy. The forum will be a beneficial opportunity for anyone working or interested in food & agriculture, planning, health, environment and policy, whether in private enterprise, government or the citizen sector.

Refreshments (fair trade and local fare) will be provided.

Date/Time: Tuesday, February 22, 9:30-11:30AM
Location: Deer Park Library, room 204, 40 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto

- Tracy Philippi, Chair, Toronto Youth Food Policy Council
- Jason Qu, Campus agriculture and food security initiatives, University of Toronto
- Jodi Callan, Senior Environmental Planner, City of Toronto
- Ian Hepburn-Aley, Urban Agriculture & Community Food Facilitator, FoodShare

Listen to Ian and Jason.

Cost: $35

Spots at discounted price are now taken. Thanks for your interest!

Registration: Register for this event by contributing $35 on our Get Involved page or by becoming a monthly Food Forward Supporter. Option to pay by cheque. Any questions, please write:

This event is organized by and supports Food Forward


11 ways to change the food system in 2011

Everyone can make an difference in our food system and different folks can do different things. Here are some ideas:

1. Participate in a community garden. Winter's a good time to think about the gardens in your area or work with neighbours to plan a new one. I've spoken with many new City Councillors interested to help!

2. Volunteer with a local organization. Food Forward is looking for volunteers, and so are many others!

3. Buy local, sustainable. Local Food Plus wants this to be your New Year's Resolution, and you may be able to make the switch to buying $10/week. Try out some of Ontario's seasonal crops like root vegetables this winter which are hardy and often inexpensive.

4. Make a contribution to a local organization. January is the right time to sign up as a monthly contributor for Food Forward or to support another local cause.

5. Support Toronto's Food Strategy and policies that will provide better food access in Toronto by writing your Mayor and Councillor with some ideas or attend budget consultation to make sure food programs remain and grow. Check our policy priorities and contact us for help or ideas.

6. Make a new connection: if you're currently volunteering or working in agriculture, community kitchens, or buying from farmer's markets, make the connection to another link in the food system chain to learn and brainstorm.

7. Intern with a local farm or food co-op or other business to get your hands dirty with those shaping the new food economy.

8. Tweet away ... share links about global issues and local solutions on your social media accounts. We'll keep sharing lots @pushFoodForward and on Facebook (see top right for links).

9. Feed yourself right. Give up that resolution to diet that won't last more than a week and think about how to make healthy choices that will last through the year.

10. Spend time to enjoy food and consider its journey to your plate by hosting or participating in a potluck. It could be a simple event to start with a couple of friends. See how local food actionist Emily Van Halem does this, in her blog post at Feel Good Food.

11. Share this post with a friend and comment below. Let us know what you've been up to and how you're growing better food.


"Boulevard of broken greens": follow-up brings hope on veggie garden saga

Sometimes the way things work at City Hall can be a crushing blow to positive growth in community activity. That’s been seen time and time again in the food movement.

Navigating the City’s web of by-laws leftover from an unpopular amalgamation has got everything muddled. That includes at least one family in Toronto with a vegetable garden on their boulevard that – as reported twice by The Star – has been ordered removed by the City.

A garden doesn’t seem like a big threat. Many have pegged this one on bureaucrats with too little to do. And while one part of City staff is working to develop a solid Food Strategy, it’s sad to see something like this happen, as momentum builds for urban agriculture in Toronto. The Food Strategy was supposed to have directed the City Manager to bring food thinking into the planning of all staff divisions.

But here’s some more info to bring some hope.

Why did this happen?

Of the six old municipalities that make up Toronto, only one – York – technically allows vegetable gardens on boulevards. This is because their by-law, which is still used, recognizes the allowance of “other plants”. Native gardening is allowed all throughout the City, but only because a court case determined that they should be allowed – another battle of days ago.

Food gardens are basically disallowed in these spaces because they are not noted in the by-law as being authorized – this means they are prohibited. Boulevards are City property.

The family with that garden has an option for now – they can secure what’s called an “encroachment allowance” with the City. That is, work with staff and get something an agreement approved. Such an agreement may through fairly easily, especially with the public pressure in the case. But no one wants to go through City Hall every time they want to start a garden.

The garden was spotted as part of an application to the City to extend building on the family's private property. I am told by city staff that they don’t go out looking for gardens and are in no way opposed to them, but they saw this in their work and had to enforce the by-law.

Good news?

It is good that many people wrote to staff on this issue. At some point in time (before or after this issue), they noticed and decided to act. In the process of harmonizing all the old by-laws relating to streets, staff in 2011 will be recommending a change in rules to allow vegetable gardens. The only caveats will include a reasonable height so they don’t obstruct the road (currently it’s 0.8m for boulevard plants) and that these gardens be maintained. The other note is that Public Health staff are looking into if there are areas that gardens should not exist, such as some arterials where the salt and road chemicals would make them bad ideas.

Get Involved

I’m told there will be many opportunities for public input into the by-law changes before anything is passed at Council. That means public consultations held by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and by Community Councils in 2011. We get to look through this stuff and raise a fuss if it’s not as good as promised - then encourage our Council to pass it. We need a City that let’s us do things, that stays out of the way of community energy for positive projects – and helps us when it can.

We’ll work to bring these consultations to your attention when we hear about them.

I know many folks have started defiant plans for boulevard vegetable gardens. Shame that this happened in the first place, and that a tomato plant is seen differently than a Black-Eyed Susan. But good that change is coming. And we get to stay vigilant.

Potluck celebration when the rules change?