Celebrating Soupstock, we're remembering the impact of Foodstock, as well as thinking about the impact that a united food movement of the scale we're enjoying in Woodbine Park could make in creating the type of food system we envision.
Please enjoy and share this re-posted blog.
If there’s something big we learned from our province’s 30,000+ person contribution to World Food Day – FoodStock – it’s that Ontarians (both urban and rural folk) strongly value our farmland, local food jobs, and the delicious dishes we make from it all.
This shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Not long ago, we didn’t have the type of food culture and economy we do today. Indeed, we had many more farmers. But it’s unlikely we would have found tens of thousands to make the trek out to a chilly farm to make a donation, enjoy good grub and take a stand on local food.
In the past, a proposal for a giant open-pit mine would have brought out environmentalists concerned about water quality and land degradation with locals worried about the threats to their community. And while those from the affected area have again led the charge, they have today found their broadest support from a burgeoning movement who consider food reasons the primary ones in which to put their booted feet down.
And while foodies had an enjoyable protest demanding their voices be heard against an American hedge fund buying up land for the mega quarry, another type of foodie joined forces with Occupy to set up camp in Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and many other cities for many of the same underlying reasons.
The present system has led to the ability of corporations, speculators and hedge funds to make growing profits from higher food prices, land ownership and destruction of the commons, while farmland loss, levels of food bank use and atmospheric carbon continue to skyrocket. As the food movement grows, links are being made among issues, from farm work to urban poverty, as are the connections within their common causes and potential solutions.
Farmland protection is but one issue to which a busy movement must keep its attention focused. The “stop the mega quarry” team has the strength behind it to be a winning one. To halt the loss of farmland once and for all, this large group must also lend its attention to ongoing local battles , no matter the jurisdiction, and demand new plans to expand and strengthen the Greenbelt and make provincial legislation win ahead of gas plants, mines and sprawl.
But it also needs to create new winning alliances with farmers, farm workers and food processors to create policies that work for all different parts of the chain. The Greenbelt, though good for the land, hasn’t brought much benefit in and of itself to the farmers. It should also look to whom good food must feed and connect with those poorly nourished by the present food system.
A mix of good ideas (currently proposed by Sustain Ontario and its partners) could help farmers feed cities, while helping to counter the economic forces that make it valuable for farmers to sell their land.
A movement of tens of thousands will not only shift the political tide on an issue. It can, if well-organized, demand the democratic and policy changes that will preserve farmland, and create programs to create good jobs (and to better the existing ones) that could feed local, sustainable Ontario food to all.
The cue has come from the food sovereignty and food democracy movements of the Global South, to take the food power back from the towers of greed, and into the hands of the people.
With newly elected governments, local and global sentiments for change and a food movement burgeoning onto the scene, there could not be a better time to draw a line in our land, raise our voice and say what we stand for.
Let's follow up on those World Food Day greetings below, to explore what's come of the Local Food Act. A pointed blog from our colleague Hayley Lapalme popped up quickly after the Premier's announcement to look at what's happened to the Act and to ask some key questions we must pose to MPPs. See Recess on the Local Food Act? (Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable).
Hayley shares my view that we've got more time to improve the Local Food Act by asking tough questions, and creating more dialogue and demands on government while the Legislature's on hold (which itself of course is a tough sell for many of us as democracy activists). This is particularly true because the Act will have to be re-introduced again in its entirety (see updates & explanations from TVO and The Star about the situation). This one was introduced just before the Legislature was prorogued, so it didn't get very far anyhow. A bill must pass three readings + committee meetings to become law - the Act had just passed first base.
What I'm saying is, for better or worse, it was still just a bill (...is there a Canadian version of this??)
We're sitting in a time when good jobs are hard to access, causing poverty and social determinants of health to worsen. But we also have entrepreneurs clamoring to create opportunities in good food by growing businesses that are creating new systems of food production, distribution, and sales. You need only to look at our Business Hub to find Toronto examples which are largely sourcing from, and enriching our countryside, while providing good food in the City and region.
Burgeoning food business in Toronto - streetfoodto.com
So to Hayley's second question for MPPs. Why does this act leave out new opportunities for small-scale farmers, processors, and other businesses to make a good living and create more jobs? Food business incubators, canneries, community-based caterers, urban growers, chefs, tech developers, new markets, and non-profits like ours are working to make an impact in this work, but largely without support - and often enough with a lot of hassle - from government. A Local Food Act is a wonderful opportunity to build in smart regulations that support other scales of food and farming, and programs that level the playing field for those struggling to sell healthy green products to Ontarians in a highly subsidized food market.
Share this if you think its worth discussing, post a comment, and get ready to talk more on about what a Local Food Act could be.
- Darcy Higgins, Executive Director of Food Forward
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 10, 2012) - More than half of Toronto residents live in "Food Deserts," neighbourhoods that do not have access to good quality and affordable food. On World Food Day, October 16, 2012, Toronto's community leaders are coming together at the Daniels Spectrum to celebrate a cross sector approach to achieving a sustainable local food system with good food for all.
Films that Move and Food Forward have partnered with the Centre for Social Innovation to raise awareness and action on the challenges with hunger and the way we grow, buy and learn about the food we eat.
"Many people think of hunger as a problem exclusive to other countries, but as we know, it's everywhere. Right here in Toronto, last year alone, there were a million visits to food banks," says UN World Food Programme National Ambassador Against Hunger George Stroumboulopoulos. "World Food Day helps us recognize the great work currently being done in schools, businesses and communities. It also reminds us that we have a long way to go, and need an integrated approach both locally and globally to address this widespread challenge."
World Food Day Toronto is a free event open to the public. Pay what you can donations will be accepted at the door to support Regent Park food initiatives and a Toronto training program for food entrepreneurs.
Speakers will chat briefly about their work, then join workshop sessions where attendees can learn more and share ideas. Speakers include David Reycraft, Regent Park Food Partnership and Dixon Hall; Chef Michael Stadtlander, Eigensinn Farm/Soupstock, Erin Shapero, Environmental Defence; Mark Cutrara, Cowbell; Seana Irvine, Evergreen; Suresh Doss, Food Truck Eats; Nick Saul, Cmmunity Food Centres Canada; Laura Rainsborough, Not Far from the Tree; Tzazna Miranda-Leal, Justicia for Migrant Workers.
Films That Move is a free social change film series that brings together people from across the sectors to collaborate in their communities.
Food Forward is a registered non-profit organization in Toronto that provides a people's voice for a better food system.