Food Forward's deputation to Economic Development

Jul
19

This week marks a pile of Committee meetings, all looking at the City's Core Service Review and areas that consultants have identified for potential cuts. We have written to the Economic Development Committee to defend the City's work that enhances good food jobs, in response to the report by KPMG, which can be found in the links on the Committee's Agenda, on ED6.1 (see the bottom of the Agenda to see that our letter has been received). Also find links to write Councillors directly with your own thoughts.

We were caught somewhat off guard with the amount of proposed cuts in these reports, as we have been keen to discuss new good food initiatives in the City that could bring new jobs. "Hiddenlicious" mentioned in the letter is a proposal from the Food Strategy we'd like to pursue among many others, but for now, we have to keep what we have, and keep the vision of what could be...

Dear Councillor Thompson and Committee,

I am writing on behalf of Food Forward, a Toronto-based community organization that provides a people's voice for a better food system. We are made up of members throughout the City who believe in a healthy, local food system which supports economic vitality and diversity in Toronto.

We appreciate the difficult task which you as a Committee have been assigned.

Economic development is an important City function. Food, and its 58,000 jobs, is Toronto's second largest employment sector and a key part of economic development work by the City.

The small amount of staff the City dedicated to its Food and Beverage industry cluster has gone a long way in supporting area business growth. The department has been a key ally for local food business in promoting its products. It has also been essential in facilitating the development of new ventures, through seminars and the development of the Toronto Food Business Incubator, which is often cited as an innovative resource for entrepreneurs. The modest Incubator has a an excellent track record, initiating successful new businesses, which hire employees and have lasting positive benefits to the City.

Just last week, the City voted to renew its local food procurement policy with support of all members on this Committee, recognizing the ability of food to be an economic driver in the City of Toronto. Toronto's food economy, second largest in North America (to Los Angeles) is set to continue its growth, with very low business costs (KPMG Competitive Alternatives Study, 2006) and consumer trends which emphasize local, sustainable, healthy and diverse foods. We have seen City staff in this area being very supportive to new entrepreneurs through events and connections that they have supported us in, and hope Torontonians can continue to benefit from these business services.

Our other key area of interest in which the City supports Toronto business and community vitality is the event planning by the City. It is with great enjoyment that Torontonians attend City-sponsored festivals that highlight local food businesses and provide economic opportunities. These festivals show off Toronto's unique diverse food culture to residents and tourists and provide unique benefits to entrepreneurs, often immigrants, who are able to sell to thousands of happy customers and hire staff and purchase food for these events.

Councillors will recognize festivals that happen right outside City Hall, nearly daily occurrences in the summer, that are key spots for area workers and visitors. Events like Summerlicious also attract dollars to be spent at local businesses. We hope that a "Hiddenlicious" festival will one day highlight the hidden gems of Toronto's cuisine that lie especially throughout suburban Toronto where tastes of the world can be found in our own backyard. These services are part of the City's Food Strategy, which looks to leverage food in all City departments upon direction of the City Manager.

Jobs are the base of a strong City of Toronto. As KPMG's report states, reducing services identified in its report would have an impact on the Toronto economy. Continued support from the City will increase the exciting trend of its food sector, through work by economic development and culture, and continue to allow for an vibrant economy with good food jobs at its base.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Darcy Higgins
Executive Director, Food Forward