Last night, over 150 passionate food leaders met at CSI Regent Park for Tasting Food Democracy: A People’s Food Policy for Canada. The event was co-hosted by Food Secure Canada, FoodShare Toronto, Sustain Ontario, the Toronto Food Policy Council, Centre for Social Innovation and the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council. The evening was meant to bring voices to those who won’t be heard during this week’s Food Summit.
Diana Bronson, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada, iterated the importance of inclusive and broad conversations, so we can advocate together for food policies we want to see. Two years ago, Food Secure Canada created the People’s Food Policy, after 3500 consultations with people across the nation.
Krystle Henry, of the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative, shared with us the importance of food in Regent Park, Canada’s largest and oldest social housing community. For example, she described how community members advocated for space to grow their own food in the 1980’s, and to this day, the community garden is still the ‘culture’ and ‘heartbeat’ of the community. Several projects are currently underway to ensure food security, sustainability, and accessibility for all residents of Regent Park.
Elisa Levi, an Indigenous Food Sovereignty Leader, shed light to the importance of land, food, and identity in Indigenous cultures. She says that ‘food is medicine’, and currently there is a big disconnect. She stressed the importance of respecting diversity, and also building on Indigenous strength and traditional knowledge. Elisa is one of the contributors of People’s Food Policy Chapter on Indigenous Food Sovereignty.
Don Mills of Local Food Plus advocates for option maximization, whether it is in food or environmental policy. He mentions how the concentration of land ownership and the hike in land prices has limited our current options. Much like the conversations of the evening, he encourages more widely held and diverse options.
Tzazna Miranda Leal, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, mentions how the migrant workers have been largely excluded from food discussions. She sheds light to the working conditions faced by migrant workers, including workplace hazards and lack of training. The current lack of status, lack of collective bargaining rights, and present international policies are perpetuating this mistreatment of migrant workers. She also mentions how environmentally conscious food does not equal ethical food.
Tasha Sutfliffe of EcoTrust Canada works to ensure sustainable fisheries on our coasts. Tasha recommends ensuring access and direct engagement of First Nations; labeling and education to better connect people; as well as, more transparent and effective monitoring systems.