Darcy Higgins's blog


Food Action Hub

Food Forward has opened a hub downtown to meet the needs of our organization and grow our capacity to support the food movement - a space where food advocacy, community and jobs connect.

We believe in the power of our networks to create a better City through food. We've seen the results of harnessing the ideas of our members and supporting them into action through resources, capacity and connections. Our centre on Carlton St. is becoming a vibrant place for Food Forward's initiatives, volunteers, and members working to advance food justice and food initiatives throughout the City.

Consider joining us here!

A Jobstarter workshop at Food Forward's new Food Action Hub on Carlton St. adjacent Allan Gardens, transit and diverse Toronto neighbourhoods.

Our work here involves community-building initiatives, strategy meetings, entrepreneurship workshops, community partnerships, space to grow and prep food - lots to offer and more coming...

Follow the Hub on Facebook.

The space is available for meetings and events for businesses, organizations, or grassroots projects - please inquire.

Contact us for more information and let us know what you're working on: info@pushfoodforward.com 


A peek into Toronto's (potential) street food change

We're almost there!

After working to change street food by-laws since 2011 (and some of our members working even longer), things are looking up. Since this time, City Council has so far changed policies to allow diverse menus by street vendors, and eliminated unfair fees for vendors to hire workers. More is on the way thank to literally thousands of your letters, voices, emails, tweets, petition signatures.

It is time that the people who cook our food have a more just system to sell whichrespects different economic backgrounds, cultures and opportunities... And serves the public who wants diverse and affordable options.

Natalia Martinez speaks to the media while handing out free fruit to people in front of Toronto City Hall on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The "illegal" pop-up food cart was organized by Food Forward to draw attention to the city's antiquated street food rules. (Don Peat/Toronto Sun)

On March 18, councillors on the City's Licensing and Standards Committee will meet to review proposed by-laws that City staff and a several years-long working group have developed. The last few months have seen a much stronger consultation and development of policies leading to some proposals that could improve access to diverse food and food entrepreneurship

The highlights:

No new street food vendors have been allowed to sell in downtown wards 20, 27 and 28 for over a decade. The current proposal from City staff is to do away with that moratorium. Councillors will need to hear your voices in support of this change.

We need to see lots of new spots available for food carts to bring in opportunities for diverse food vendors. However the initial proposal is for only 10 new spots downtown and 10 elsewhere. Spots might be designated in a lottery system.

Street food will be allowed in any private property. Carts or trucks will only need a vendorsbusiness license, and they'll be able to work out any rental with the property owner. This so far has not been allowed in many cases - like in parking lots. It is quite a positive change. We'd like to help vendors connect with these new opportunities come spring if this passes.

City staff are wrestling with two options on food trucks - whether to allow them to stop on regular street parking, or to have a number of designated places to parking. Like food carts, they'll likely designate a number of trucks or spots to be allowed at first.

Restaurant owners need not worry, either way, food trucks will have to be 25 metres away from them. This is normal in many cities. 

If you have input or questions on these final policies, email Luke Robertson of Licensing and Standards at lrobert5@toronto.ca

Also consider emailing or calling city councillors with your thoughts. You can contact your own councillor, or start with those on the Committee which will be reviewing this first. 

You can also attend the public Committee meeting or even speak in support of positive recommendations on Tuesday March 18 at City Hall Committee room 1 (second floor) beginning at 9:30.

Bon appetit!


Food Jobs Forward: Growing your career and community

A Jobstarter event hosted by Food Forward:

Looking for opportunities to make a difference through community food security or sustainable food systems? Having trouble finding a job? Want to find non-traditional opportunities in food, community, health, equity and business...while networking and growing your skillset?

This mini-conference on good food work will provide opportunities to learn how to build sustainable food systems and community food security ithrough your career; learn important skills such as grant writing; gain ideas and tips for the food job search and career development; and learn from those who've made a go at it...



Saturday, February 8th: 11:30 am - 5:00 pm


Food Forward Centre: 2 Homewood Avenue, Toronto

(just north of Carlton, between Jarvis and Sherbourne)

Presenters include:

Dave Kranenburg. Currently works for CSI as their community programs facilitator. Dave used to run a national program coordinating student food banks across multiple campuses. A common thread of Dave’s work is organising people to increase access to healthy food for all.

Emma Point: Emma is the Community and Partnership Coordinator at TAS, an innovative real estate development company based in Toronto. Emmas role is to coordinate the partnerships and community projects in TASs neighbourhoods, many of which focus on urban agriculture. She is also helping to plan the companys inclusion of food growing space for homeowners in all future developments. 

Ratsamy Pathammavong: Ratsamy leads the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Ontario, Diversity department with over a decade of experience development and implementing health promotion programs and policies. Her current role focuses on health equity, staff and volunteer diversity and inclusion, and leading fund development initiatives focused on improving the health of ethno-racial and aboriginal communities.


- Q&A, Discussions with a critical look at the future of community food work, and more...

- Lunch and refreshments provided


Cost - $45

or $30 for Food Forward CSA members/monthly contributors

Only 20 spots available!

Register now at: http://pushfoodforward.nationbuilder.com/member

Funds support the new Food Forward Centre.



Our centre is wheelchair accessible. Contact with any questions info@pushfoodforward.com

Subsidies may be available from neighbourhood community agencies, career centres, or for students, from your faculty.

Lunch will be vegan-friendly.

Thanks to support from the Ontario Natural Food Co-op!


Food Forward's 2013 top ten!

2013 was a year of many successes for the food movement, including new policy initiatives on local food and health pushing forward at the Province. We in Food Forward have been happy to be part of this, creating unique initiatives, bringing people together around strategic food building, and advocating policies to create change.

Here's a top ten list of Food Forward's 2013 achievements in job creation, policy, and capacity:

  1. Street food: Our first "Illegal" fruit stand was a big hit, bringing attention to street food back to front page headlines across Toronto and bringing renewed attention at City Hall. With our partners and members, this and much other work for over two years has helped to bring action on street food, with change allowing more vendors and foods to finally be expected later this Winter. In 2013 already, food trucks have been rolled out across the City in a new City program, and unfair permits to hire street food workers were eliminated.
  2. Jobstarter: Foodie Drinks and Jobstarter workshops and resources, along with our recent first Food Entrepreneur Meetup brought together foodies to make a difference in the City, highlight innovative projects, and add capacity to grow businesses and grassroots initiatives. Scope the papers for the amazing things our members and participants accomplish this year, while we continue to grow our Jobstarter program.
  3. Local Food Act: Food Forward created a stronger Local Food Act through a series of discussions with MPPs and staff from all parties, with petitions and letters from our members and friends. After the Premier promised Food Forward a stronger Act at the beginning of the year, we were able to finish with local food legislation thanks to many including opposition party members, with stronger commitments and a tax credit for farmers who donate fresh produce to community food programs.
  4. A centre: As of November, we now have a space of our own to strengthen grassroots advocacy on food justice issues and to create a new kind of capacity for the food movement to host meetings, workshops, and for entrepreneurs and social innovators to work alongside us through our Working Membership. Do hope you visit or consider co-working or booking with us!
  5. #foodTOEats: Our annual event went bigger this year with August's #foodTOEats featuring some of Toronto's best new food entrepreneurs and Food Idol Awards. The tastes and people were top notch, and we were able to award our first Food Sprouts Grant giving away a thousand dollars to advance food justice.
  6. Building Roots: Launched thanks to support from the Heart & Stroke Foundation... As a long-term solution to food insecurity in our neighbourhoods, Building Roots aims to bring in developers to support communities in building food hubs, kitchens, urban agriculture and food stores in all parts of the City where people can grow, cook, share, and buy good food. After a sold out launch event at Paintbox Bistro with Daniels Corporation and community members, Lisa Kates and Darcy Higgins have been busy meeting developers, architects, planners, and councillors, and are excited to launch workshops with the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council to help residents bring food infrastructure into their communities.
  7. FJC: Food Forward has launched the Food Justice Committee to prioritize issues of food inequity, working to develop and act on a deeper understanding, to move forward on food justice with new campaigns and coalitions. Stay tuned to watch Food Nation develop over the municipal election.
  8. caterToronto: 2013 was the year that caterToronto launched, a project created by Vanessa Yu with a partnership between Food Forward and North York Community House, and funded by the Metcalf Foundation. caterToronto is a network of different kinds of community-based caterers in Toronto working together for greater economic outcomes. Its first event in October brought together over 60 people of various backgrounds to share, train and meet to build their business skills and goals.
  9. Food justice events: Over the last year Food Forward partnered to coordinate many events and trainings in food justice and anti-oppression, such as with Growing Food & Justice Initiative Toronto LEG, North York Harvest Food Bank, as well as an event supporting resident organizers with Regent Park's Community Food Centre and Community Health Centre, hosting over a hundred and fifty people in discussion, food and expression.
  10. Supporting entrepreneurs: Events like May's Pop Up Picnic with the David Suzuki Foundation, we've been connecting new local, sustainable, and diverse food businesses with jobs, vending opportunities, kitchen rentals... and hundreds of eaters with great food!

Not bad work on a tiny budget + many volunteer hours by our innovative and committed members!

Of course you can't have successes without failure, and we know we haven't yet engaged enough Torontonians or created enough jobs or capacity to overcome food injustices and ensure people have decent food and jobs. We need more commercial kitchens, healthier food distribution, and political will to make a difference on food.

The challenges of the food system are quite staggering, and with all that we and fellow food activists are doing, much is still getting worse. Let's re-double our efforts and create a stronger political food movement in 2014 with leadership from stemming from those who need good food the most.