Darcy Higgins's blog

Nov
26

Three exciting events for #foodTO innovators

Entrepreneurs, food innovators and local food actionists are invited to Food Forward's new food action centre on Carlton St for a number of upcoming events with our Jobstarter program this December, to grow your capacity to do good food work. Space for each is limited so register today!

See below to learn more and register for:

- Workshop: Learn to fundraise, Dec 10

- Workshop: Marketing your food business, Dec 12

- Food Biz Meetup - Holiday Edition! Dec 16

each starts at 7pm, few blocks from College Station

Learn to Fundraise

Fundraising is a skill that most people need, but aren't the most comfortable at building. Successful fundraisers will share their experienceat this workshop, with lessons from fundraiser and non-profit leader Sabrina Bowman, and crowdfunding advice from Ayah Norris of Indiegogo.

See Facebook for information and registration.

Marketing your food business

What is your brand? What makes it different? How do you engage with your community? What is your target market?

Learn some of the essentials of small business marketing at this workshop with Mitchell Stern, who's helped large and small companies (Toronto Underground Market, Hot Bunzz) figure out these questions and grow their reach. A great opportunity to engage with like-minded food entrepreneurs.

See Facebook for information and registration.

Food Biz Meetup

Join us at the launch event of Food Forward's Toronto Food Biz Meetups.. meet new and old food entrepreneurs and innovator friends... learn about some of the City's best new ventures, and sample or buy some great foods.

Try beer from Black Oak brewery and coffee from KLINK.

Doubling as Food Forward's holiday mixer.. tickets and more info on Uniiverse. We look forward to seeing you!

Oct
30

"Illegal" fruit stand goes on the road

Food Forward's Food Justice Committee took our 'illegal foor cart' and free fruit to St. James Town in October, sharing with residents outside of a recently closed grocery store in the neighbourhood.

Watch how it went on CTV!

The group were discussing the impacts of the closure with those who would usually buy from the store in Canada's densest neighbourhood. Some of the areas estiamted 25,000 residents told members that it is difficult to access healthy and affordable food - that the remaining grocer has started running out of produce.

Food Forward wants to see development that increases food access, not decreases. See more in our Building Roots project. We will host a workshop in St. James Town and other neighbourhoods to learn more about needs and share advocacy tools with residents to affect change in new development - see "Building Roots" under our projects tab above.

 

Oct
29

Restaurants for Street Food

Open letter

Dear City of Toronto Council and staff,

As owners of restaurants and foodservice business, we wish to add our voices to the public call for diverse street food in Toronto.

Toronto is one of the most significant food hubs in North America. We have been working hard to offer Torontonians with diverse and delicious food options, and the City is quickly becoming a great place for good food. Food processing has created over 58,000 jobs in Toronto. These are well-paid jobs primarily in small and medium sized enterprises. Our food events, markets, and restaurants match our cultural diversity. But our street food scene is lacking because the rules are holding back entrepreneurs.

Restaurants and street food businesses can live and work together in Toronto. It is happening in cities across the United States and Canada that have eased long-standing red tape on street food to create new jobs. In Toronto, street food carts, food pop-up vendors, and food trucks are already working with restaurants, farmers, bakers, and others. Street food is being prepared in restaurant kitchens. Food truck events are helping foodies find out about restaurants in neighbourhoods they hadn’t been to.

Many of us and our parents actually started out in street food. It often provides a stepping stone for entrepreneurs, especially those new to Canada to generate income, pay taxes, and eventually open a restaurant. In Toronto, several successful restaurants have opened in the last two years through street food and pop-up food entrepreneurs. Street food businesses may be at a smaller scale but are legitimate businesses, which generate income to the City by paying for space, licenses and events fees (though receiving few City services).

Toronto’s regulations should allow street food in private and public realm spaces, including the inner suburbs and downtown where a moratorium has prevented new food trucks and carts. In Los Angeles, food trucks have produced a guide to being good neighbours, and have essentially self-regulated by deciding not to park near restaurants with similar menus. Many cities have created pods for several street food operators in the public realm.

Vendors should be allowed to sell a broad range of diverse foods without excessive menu restrictions. Other issues such as unfair fees for hiring street food workers should be addressed.

The City of Toronto can help foster a diverse street food culture - rather than holding it back - with a significantly improved regulatory environment that brings a place for all types of food businesses. We can’t wait to work together with our colleagues for the opportunities this will provide for entrepreneurs, tourists, and our residents.

Sincerely,

 

Matt Basile, Lisa Marie

Sang Kim, Yakitori Bar, Seoul Food Co, Windup Bird Cafe

Patrick McMurray, Starfish and Ceili Cottage

Len Senater, The Depanneur

Sep
25

Can we get an effective Local Food Act passed this Fall?

It appears the Local Food Act is back on the table and could be passed by the end of this Fall. The purpose of the Act is to do some pretty neat things:

  • foster successful and resilient local food economies and systems throughout Ontario;
  • increase awareness of local food in Ontario, including the diversity of local food; and,
  • encourage the development of new markets for local food. 

The focus is on expanding local food... bringing more to market, specifically through more marketing, and by the setting of goals or targets by the Minister of Food & Agriculture “with respect to” local food (assume they mean amount purchasing) at public institutions – ministries, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, municipalities, long-term care homes.

For a potentially groundbreaking Act on food, that isn’t very meaty. It also doesn’t address food access or sustainable agriculture, and doesn’t properly do what's within the government's power to help spur new jobs. 

We’ve been asking, with hundreds of Torontonians and Ontarians, for the Local Food Act to be improved to create good jobs. The Government of Ontario shares the priority of job creation. This Fall, ministers have all been tasked with looking at their programs through a “jobs lens”, which is exactly what we proposed to improve the Local Food Act. We petitioned to do this by several means.

Our proposals were brought up positively multiple times in the Legislature by MPPs in initial debate on the Act. Sustain Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and many others have also been calling for the Act to do more good. The opposition parties are also calling for more, and the government has expressed openness to these ideas. The NDP priorities for the Act have been stated – they’re great. So are the PC’s – they will be proposing amendments as well at Committee debate which could happen quitesoon.

In addition, the Government has launched the Local Food Fund, with ten million dollars per year that groups and businesses can apply to in order to support and improve local food all across the sector. The Fund is broad, exciting and could spark some really interesting work. The government has clearly listened in the creation of this Fund.

As political winds align to get the Local Food Act back on the agenda in the next month, let’s build on the success to further strengthen this Act so it works to address a more prosperous local, healthy, equitable food system.

In a letter to Food Forward before being elected, Premier Wynne promised just that - a strengthened Local Food Act that would "develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food”, as well as to “Streamline regulations that impact the Agri-food industry...and develop a single window information approach to government.

 

These are important. So is dealing with financial and health inequities as food bank use continues to rise.


There are a few amendments that could improve the Act at this point. We propose these:

 

  • Support entrepreneurs by conducting a review of small business regulations and creating a single window approach to ensure that small-scale food and farm enterprises have a level playing field and fair chance. Innovative entrepreneurs people in the City as well as farm country are having a tough time even finding out about regulations to meet, as they're busy trying to improve the food system.

 

  • Create more local food jobs by mandating the creation of goals and targets to be set and defined, and put in place more support for institutions to meet them. Current language of the Act means it is up to the Minister of the day to create targets if they wish.

 

  • Increase healthy food access by allowing farmers to receive tax credits for donating to food banks, and also to other community food programs including community kitchens, meal drop-ins, and active living programs for children and seniors. Food banks, community health and food centres, and grassroots programs are all in need for various programs, especially as the model of food banks evolve and the government improves social assistance.

 

The Committee on Social Policy will be hearing your voices on the Act. Please contact these MPPs to ask that such amendments be enacted.

 

kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org, ernie.hardeman@pc.ola.org, bbalkissoon.mpp@liberal.ola.org, ted.chudleigh@pc.ola.org, mcolle.mpp@liberal.ola.org, vdhillon.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org, dinovoc-qp@ndp.on.ca, hjaczek.mpp@liberal.ola.org, jane.mckenna@pc.ola.org, pmiller-qp@ndp.on.ca, jschein-qp@ndp.on.ca, jvanthof-qp@ndp.on.ca, bob.baileyco@pc.ola.org, william_short@ontla.ola.org