Welcome to Food Forward


On the leading edge of a movement

Who would have thought? But now I know it: Toronto is a complete hotbed for those wanting to make a career in food and agriculture.

Those coming out in front of at least two movements: good food, and social entrepreneurship, turned out in droves to our series of workshops Saturday.

Two participants have highlighted blog summaries on the day, read more:

Pushing Forward with 100 Hands, from Healthy People, Healthy Planet by Andrea C.

Get a Job Hippie! from North Simcoe Community News by Jacob Kearey-Moreland


"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?


The other side of the coin

This week I'm swapping diets with Darcy as part of the Do the Math Challenge, see background post.

Right now the green guy is starting to look a little green around the gills from all the sodium and crap he’s eating. He’s basically eating stuff from my pantry that is food bank govno. He will start to get apathetic and listless and, if the diet goes on, lose interest in his world. I on the other hand am feeling recharged with almonds, kale carrots, soy milk etc.. You get the picture. I am eating the apples a day that keep us sharp and rosy.

Maybe if I could eat like this all the time I would be taking less meds for my diabetes and high blood pressure and if I did go back to work. My drugstore bill would be affordable. And going back to work would make me happy and healthier.

Food is a big part of life and people on social assistance have a hard time buying fresh foods due to cost and geography. The better stores that sell local are not here. I know there is Food Share but many want their privacy and don’t like the charity model. We like to buy what we want and not have to register for it. If I get some extra money I go to St Lawrence Market and shop like a fiend for fresh veggies and fingerling potatoes.

Food affects hair and skin and if you are not eating your fruits and veggies you will get all pasty and stringy. Vitamins from a bottle can’t replace good food. When I was a vegan I glowed I also got pregnant cause I glowed so much I attracted a much younger man.. but that’s another story about the power of veggies.

Darcy has given me a chance to maybe get myself back into vegan ways and maybe get the sugar and blood pressure under control again. I tested high a few days ago and I’m not happy. I know Darcy is not happy with this food and his aim is to show how stupid it is not to feed people right. The government is wasting money. On the other hand, money will have to be spent in the schools to teach the kids how to cook in a healthy way and using foods that are grown locally in Ontario and possibly grown by themselves.

More pictures of Connie and Darcy with their foods here: http://on.fb.me/FFalbum


Stretching three days of food

I'm now at the end of my three day supply of food for the Do the Math Challenge. I've been making my way of it, perhaps body getting a little more used to it. Yesterday felt headache, tiredness and digestion issues through the day. I also ate canned tuna, which doesn't go well with my eating practices or my nose.

I'm heading to an event with nice local foods that I won't be able to eat today. I'm hoping my rice and beans with potato for dinner will hold me over.

So I'll be able to stretch my food supply over through tomorrow, my fourth day. Another friend on low income told me yesterday that he'd love to eat food from the food banks, but it's counterproductive to his health - with his conditions, he just can't do it.

I'm wondering more about the alternatives. Why don't people support their low income neighbours directly with healthy foods instead of giving. There is a lot of unfortunate stigma. Why can't gift cards be used for grocery stores so folks can buy the fresh stuff they need? Or why not raise social assistance rates by $100/month to put food in people's budgets? You can suggest that to your MPP by writing him or her: