The Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) has been instrumental in putting food security and food policy development on the municipal agenda in Toronto. Below is a history of the TFPC from 1991–2001.
Food and Hunger Action
Because of the great social costs and injustice of hunger, the TFPC:
- Wrote and championed the City of Toronto Declaration on Food and Nutrition,1991.
- Produced a ground-breaking series of reports linking hunger to food systems policy.
- Developed a feasibility study of not-for-profit healthy food delivery system for Toronto's low-income citizens. Operational control of the "Field To Table" program was assumed by FoodShare in 1992. It provides affordable, nourishing, regionally-sourced food to 15,000 people each month.
- Provided fundraising assistance that helped community organisations obtain $3.5 million for projects increasing access to affordable nourishing food in the early 1990s.
- Helped initiate policy and program co-operation among many players in the food security movement, leading to the Food 2002 project.
- Designed Canada's first Food Access Grants Program, approved by Toronto City Council in 1995, and administered the program from 1996 to 1998, directing $2.4 million for kitchen purchases in 180 schools and social agencies.
- Helped develop information service listing local emergency food programs for people in need. This service became the FoodLink Hotline, co-sponsored by FoodShare and Community Information Toronto.
- Provided crucial staff and resources to City Council's Food and Hunger Action Committee, which produced two reports: Planting the Seeds (2000) and A Growing Season (2001).
There are significant long-term costs to a public healthcare system when large numbers of people go hungry, are poorly nourished, or eat unsafe foods. For that reason, the TFPC:
- Conducted critical research and advocacy on potentially negative health impacts of Bovine Growth Hormone, contributing to a successful campaign that led to the federal government's refusal to license this biotechnology product for use in Canadian dairy operations.
- Co-authored the Ontario Public Health Association's Food and Nutrition Strategy Statement.
- Helped form the Greater Toronto Food Policy Commission, bridging City and regional Boards of Health in biotechnology discussions.
- Co-wrote Is Food The Next Public Health Challenge? (PDF) for Toronto Board of Health in 1998.
- Participated in Breastfeeding Network of Metropolitan Toronto, and played key roles in its research, analysis, social marketing campaigns and coalition building.
- Promoted the Innocenti Declaration of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, culminating in the "Mother Friendly Workplace" initiative at Toronto City Hall.
- Helped create Ontario's first Green Community food program.
- Worked with Student Nutrition Coalition to expand school food programs in the City from 53 to 350. Helped persuade the provincial government to fund student nutrition programs.
- Participated, with FoodShare and Centre For Science in the Public Interest, in campaign to promote nutritious home-made baby food.
Agricultural Land Preservation and Urban Planning
Long-term food security means that we need farmland in and near the city. We must begin to account for the true cost of haphazard urban sprawl on Canada's prime agricultural lands.
The Toronto Food Policy Council contributed to many planning consultative processes including:
- Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario (Sewell Commission)
- Ontario Bill 163 (Planning Act) and Comprehensive Set of Policy Statements, the Reformed Planning Act (Bill 20) and the new Provincial Policy Statement
- Report of the Greater Toronto Area Task Force (Golden Report)
- City of Toronto existing Official Plan, and draft Official Plan 2001
- City of Toronto Strategic Plan
- City of Toronto Environmental Task Force
Since 10 per cent of City jobs are in the food sector, the TFPC has played an active role promoting public support for economic development of this sector. We have:
- Worked with different levels of government, as well as business and community groups, on the need for a new food-processing centre in Toronto, to retain industrial jobs and promote environmentally-sound approaches to food processing. Called the Toronto Food Fair proposal, the initiative profiled small food businesses as essential to a job creation strategy.
- Worked with the City of Toronto Economic Development Division on a consolidated approval process for public health regulation of small food processing businesses.
- Researched commercial kitchen incubators for City of Toronto Economic Development Division and FoodShare, which led to construction of a 2,000 sq. foot incubator kitchen at 200 Eastern Avenue in 1997.
- Initiated a "Buy Ontario" food program involving Huron County farmers and eight Ontario hospitals to increase hospital purchases of local foods.
- Worked with city staff and Community Economic Development groups to form a Local Economic Development strategy for the City of Toronto in 1997.
- Organised business development workshops for Food Access Program Grant recipients on project planning, food handling, distribution and marketing.
- Promoted farmer's markets, including the Junction Farmers Market, in collaboration with local Business Improvement Associations.
- Worked with the Economic Development Committee, Board of Health, and Parks and Recreation to develop strategies for farmers markets featured at various civic centres.
Urban Agriculture and Food Waste Recovery
In today's food system, those who produce food live a long way from those who eat food. The separation and distance create many problems, from the pollution associated with long-haul transportation to the foodscrap "waste" that creates problems with garbage. To reduce this pollution and waste, we have:
- Promoted redesign of Toronto's urban infrastructure on a more sustainable model that mimics the "close-looped" energy pathways and cycles of nature.
- Advocated that the City capture its food wet waste stream of compostable organics. A principle of "no net loss of urban nutrient resources" means using waste from one food consumption as feedstock for urban agriculture, community gardening, bio-gas development and brownfield remediation.
- Served on the Steering Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Energy's Wet Waste Strategic Planning process.
- Participated in several community composting projects, such as Toronto Urban Nutrient Recovery Committee in the Broadview-Gerrard neighbourhood, and the Greenest City worm project in Kensington Market neighbourhood.
- Reported to the Board of Health on a one-tonne per day pilot composting project, adopted by Works and Environment Department in 1997.
- Participated in the Metro Wet Waste sub-committee, resulting in six composting projects.
- Co-ordinated a half-day workshop on food miles at the 1998 "Moving the Economy" alternative transportation conference in Toronto.
- Worked with the green community movement to propose using compost and specified crops to remediate certain brownfield sites.
- Completed a pre-feasibility study for the Toronto Atmospheric Fund on a neighbourhood business model of a composting greenhouse that captures heat, nutrients and carbon dioxide.
- Submitted Feeding the City from the Back Forty (PDF) for the Environmental Task Force to show how Toronto could produce 25 per cent of its fruits and vegetables by 2025.
- Initiated and organised the first "North American Conference on Urban Agriculture," March 6, 2000 in Philadelphia. This conference brought together 100 participants who heard from civic officials, economic development officers, growers, brokers and buyers.
- Founded the Rooftop Garden Resource Group to launch green roof research and promote a green roof industry in Canada.
- Helped initiate the City Hall Green Roof project in 1999.
- Worked with the advisory group for the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation study, "Greenbacks from Greenroofs: Creating a New Industry in Canada," and hosted a conference of the same name in 1998.
Community gardens have many social and environmental benefits. They grow neighbourhoods, skills, fitness and leadership as well as food. As champions of community gardens, we have:
- Led the effort for a community gardening strategy in Toronto, resulting in an expansion from 50 community gardens in 1991 to 122 in 2001.
- Chaired Interdepartmental Working Group that crafted "Supports for Urban Food Production: Creating a Garden City, 1993."
- Played an international role with the American Community Gardening Association, and in conference presentations and networking in Europe and South Africa.
- Supported the Alex Wilson community garden park in downtown Toronto, 1997.
- Helped coordinate GROW T.O.GETHER Community Gardeners, and its successor, the Toronto Community Gardening Network.
- Chaired the School Garden and Compost Committee at the Toronto Board of Education, 1992-1998. Conducted 25 workshops for parents and teachers, and completed manual on guidelines for school garden and compost projects.
Communications, Capacity Building and Public Education
Because public information is so critical to the community capacity needed for food security, TFPC staff and members have:
- Given thousands of speeches and slide show presentations on community food security, sustainable food systems and urban agriculture to university classes, and environmental and community groups.
- Helped organize, with Ryerson University Centre for Studies in Food Security, the International Urban Food Systems Conference.
- Built and maintained a food security resource centre used by the general public, researchers and university students.
- Presented at the 1997 Jane Jacobs "Ideas that Matter" conference.
- Participated on the executive or board of many organizations and agencies, including American Community Gardening Association, Community Food Security Coalition, FoodShare Toronto, HungerWatch, and Ryerson University Centre for Studies in Food Security.
- Supervised undergraduate and graduate student research reports in collaboration with Ryerson University, University of Toronto and York University.