It's been a year in office for Mayor Tory and City Council, over a year since the Mayor and much of Council endorsed the Food Nation platform. A quarter through their term, has action been taken to reach these goals?
The Food Nation platform (find below) has also been endorsed by thousands of Torontonians in communities throughout the City.
So where have we seen significant action on these commitments that align with our platform recommendations?
Council with political leadership from Mayor Tory and Deputy Mayor McConnell has approved a robust Poverty Reduction Strategy that includes food. The Mayor championed housing funding during the federal election, and the Strategy asks for provincial and federal co-operation on poverty reduction including income, along with much more that can be done by the City itself with partners. This was all led by significant community action.
The City is undertaking a number of initiatives, including launching FoodStarter, a food incubator for food producers. Economic Development is also launching a new incubator grant fund to community groups supporting job creation. Poverty reduction plan has several important objectives on employment and entrepreneurship - these include removing barriers, and supporting the creation of livable incomes for better employment! On Toronto as a food destination, the City is participating in the Culinary Tourism Trail Working Group which could do a lot to promote our small food producers.
5) Local Action
The Food By Ward initiative has launched, bringing together people across the city building great information in their wards, which will be used to connect residents with councillors in the new year and identify opportunities for important work.
Significant in all of this is an important change of tone from the previous administration at City Hall with a willingness to press for some action that builds the City up and supports health and those who are vulnerable. A number of other food initiatives are also being supported by the City. However, overall trends are fairly troubling.
Councillors need to act significantly to support their residents with action in their neighbourhoods - to put forth effort and funds that supports local work and yields results.
In many ways, the City is not on board with important food projects. Community members, organizations and businesses need stronger co-operation and fewer roadblocks from all City divisions to create community solutions. The City is still often the biggest roadblock.
With Significant work having been done on a number of fronts, the groundwork laid, 2016 will be the time for the City to act on programs, initiatives, and provide a strong budgetary contribution for food justice and poverty reduction. This will help to create those jobs, projects, food access and higher incomes that Toronto needs to become more livable for many, and ensure strong results by 2018.
Food Nation Platform
1) Create opportunities to grow, cook, sell and buy fresh, healthy food in all neighbourhoods and in every major new housing development and neighbourhood plan.
City Council and staff should, as per the City's Official Plan, work with developers, communities and businesses to build urban agriculture, commerical kitchens, food stores, farmer's markets and communtiy food hubs into new housing, using City infrastructure and new policy, neighbourhood planning, and Section 37 funding on communtiy food priorities.
2) Reduce the number of Torontonians below the poverty line by the 2018 election by 40% or more by championing income inequality.
Toronto’s Mayor and Council should champion income inequality by implementing a robust and ambitious anti-poverty plan, and by showing leadership to provincial and federal government to create income levels that allow people to afford the basics like healthy food - through tools such as increased social assistance rates, child benefits, or guaranteed annual income.
3) Create good food jobs for youth and marginalized communities.
Create a new Food Jobs Office (like the City’s Film Office) for our biggest employer. Task it with increasing good jobs by reducing barriers to employment and entrepreneurship, supporting and creating infrastructure like food business incubators, make local investments, and ensure Toronto’s neighbourhoods are food destinations. Work with and learn from cities and ambitious food organizers in places like Austin, New York, Vancouver and Chicago to create innovative opportunities here.
4) Increase the availability of fresh, healthy food in community food assistance programs.
Improve health and dignity for Torontonians through support and funding to substantially increase the amount of healthy food distributed to those who need it. Create a sustainable fund for fresh food and the infrastructure to prepare it.
5) Work with constituents to create a better City through food in their neighbourhoods - Food Nation members bring your local concerns and solutions to your candidates!
Decide top priorities with residents and work with local stakeholders to implement food justice initiatives that create jobs and healthy food solutions.