Fighting For Food Justice in the Black Creek Community: Report, Analyses and Steps Forward

The Black Creek Food Justice Network has recently launched their report, Fighting for Food Justice in the Black Creek Community: Report, Analyses and Steps Forward. Demands from the Black Creek Community.

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Here are the summarized demands of the Black Creek Community for Food Justice:

Improve Growing Spaces and Support for Urban Growing
1. Make City Parks and Hydro Corridors accessible for community residents to garden and grow food
2. Create, fund and maintain a garden in every school
3. Assure core funding from all levels of government for organizations doing food justice and urban agriculture work so that they can be sustainable

Make Food More Affordable by Raising Wages and Social Safety Nets
1. Increase and maintain the minimum wage at a liveable wage rate or a basic guaranteed income
2. Raise Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works rates

Fight for Justice for the People that Work to Feed Us
1. Support migrant farm workers’ political demands, which include a) access to landed status upon arrival; b) a permanent residency regularization program for those already in Canada, c) equal access to all social programs; d) a fair appeal process before any repatriation order; and e) full protections under the provincial Employment Standards Act and Regulations
2. Subsidize small farmers and promote ecologically informed farming policies that support young, new, and racialized farmers.

Stop Criminalizing Our Communities
1. Remove security guards and undercover police from grocery stores in predominantly racialized and working-class communities (high-income and/or largely white neighbourhoods do not have visible security presence)

Connect Food and Health 
1. Make healthy food more accessible to people with mental and physical health challenges
2. Mandate published images be representative of a variety of bodies, body shapes, sizes and skin tones.

Voices Speak Out on Hidden Labor in the Food System at TYFPC Community Meeting & Launch of TYFPC’s ‘The Gathering’ Academic Journal

On Monday, December 5th, 2016, over 50 students, workers, academics, activists and community members gathered at our December community meeting held at the Workers Action Centre to discuss the topic of hidden labor in our food system and make space for the stories of food workers that often go unheard. Our food system is heavily reliant on workers across the food chain who grow, harvest, package, transport, sell and serve our food to us daily. While the food industry makes up one the largest work forces in Canada, the labor, rights and experiences of food workers has remained hidden for far too long and is often characterized by precarious work conditions and racialized and migrant labor.

Our lively evening began with an opportunity for guests to grab a spot at a “networking table”,  introduce themselves and share with one another their various experiences and connections to food. The room was filled with vibrant chatter as well as the aroma of the delicious daal, curry and zeera rice, catered by ‘Flavors of Thorncliffe’, a women’s catering collective in Thorncliffe Park. Guests then gathered to toast the launch of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council’s academic journal: ‘The Gathering’ and applaud the creative and insightful work of the authors and TYFPC members who brought the journal to life.

The following portion of the night invited food workers and food and labor activists to sit on our guest panel to share their experiences of food work in Ontario. Panel members attested their realities of poor work conditions and spoke to the fragility of their jobs, as well as the critical work that groups are currently pursuing to fight for better wages and employment conditions and status for workers. One of our panelists, Chris Ramsaroop, a pivotal member of ‘Justicia for Migrant Workers’ and the ‘Harvesting Freedom’ campaign communicated the importance of storytelling. This has been a critical part of the ‘Harvesting Freedom’ campaign which has been running via a caravan of migrant workers and allies travelling throughout Ontario since September; promoting worker’s rights for migrant farmworkers and creating safe spaces for their voices.  Two other panelists spoke about their involvement in UNITE HERE Local 75, a union representing hotel, restaurant and food service workers, majorly comprised of women and people of color.  The two panelists highlighted the unfair changes from new union contracts that Aramark food workers employed at the University of Toronto and York University were fighting against and the resilient ways in which they were supporting one another.

All our panelists brought worthwhile insight and discussion, emphasizing the value in continuing these kinds of conversations and acknowledging the diversity of experiences of workers across the food system. We hope the event sparked a hunger for change for those who attended and their wider communities as well as continued support towards the tireless efforts of groups such as ‘Justicia for Migrant Workers, UNITE HERE Local 75’s campaign and No One is Illegal.

A big thanks to our panelists for giving their time and energy for the night and for the energetic presence of our guests. Our academic journal, ‘The Gathering’ – Volume 3 is now available online here and will be offered in print this coming month. The TYFPC is now also accepting creative art submissions(drawings, graphics, poems, photos and more) for our art’s journal: “Melange”. Please send your submissions to journal@tyfpc.ca with “Melange 2017 Submission” in the subject line. Stay tuned via our Facebook, Twitter and our Newsletter for updates on TYFPC’s next events and our next community meeting on Monday, February 6th, 2017! For any further questions or comments please email us at info@tyfpc.ca!

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Submissions now open for Mélange Creative Arts Journal!

The TYFPC is officially seeking submissions for our second issue of Mélange Creative Arts Journal! 

We are currently seeking submissions by youth (30 and under). Send in your photography, art, poetry, creative writing, recipes, and all other creative food projects welcome!

Submission Guidelines:
Visual media submissions are to be no larger than 8.5”/11” and with the resolution of 300dpi. Written submissions are to be no longer than 1000 words.

Submission deadline: February 28, 2017

Please send your submissions to journal@tyfpc.ca with “Melange 2017 Submission” in the subject line.

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Endorsement for Justicia for Migrant Workers’ “Harvesting Freedom” Campaign

The Toronto Youth Food Policy Council (TYFPC) is pleased to endorse the 2016 Harvesting Freedom campaign. This endorsement is to support the demand that the Canadian government allow migrant farm workers in Canada to access full immigration status upon arrival.

This year (2016) marks the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers program, a labour program that has brought thousands of Caribbean and Mexican migrant farm workers to toil in fields across the country. The hard work and labour of these workers produces the majority of “local” food grown in Canada, and poses a number of ethical concerns with respect to human rights.

A major issue is that migrant workers are tied to their employer, have no access to residency status, and therefore must return home after their contract. They face little to no worker protection and face tremendous barriers to accessing health care. Migrant workers also suffer workplace harassment and experience differential treatment compared to Canadian residents.

Being tied to an employer creates vulnerable working and living conditions that further expose migrant farm workers to dangerous and precarious conditions. Whether it’s workplace deaths such as Ned Livingston Peart, a Jamaican migrant worker killed in a workplace accident, to the forced DNA sweep of 100 Caribbean migrant workers near London, migrant workers are subjected to differential treatment that must end immediately.

This year, Justicia for Migrant Workers, migrant workers and allies are organizing to demand that the Canadian government provide Permanent Immigration Status for all migrant workers. The government has no excuse to deny this residency status as they have already done so for immigrants, including recent Syrian refugees. As the TYFPC we endorse this movement and support Justicia for Migrant Workers’ continued call to justice.

In solidarity,
The Toronto Youth Food Policy Council

“Youth at the Table” at the Food Secure Canada’s 9th Assembly

By: Arielle Vetro (TYFPC Placement Student)

After attending the “Youth at the Table” networking event at the Food Secure Canada’s 9th Assembly, I’m left with overwhelming feelings of excitement and motivation. First off, the venue proved to be very fitting, as the Toronto City Hall council chambers felt symbolic to our purpose for gathering that evening; to make space for youth in policy decision-making. After speaking with attendees throughout the evening, I was better able to understand why it is so crucial that youth are involved in food politics. In particular, many participants I spoke to expressed that when they don’t see their own identities being represented in food policy decision-making bodies, they felt that their voices were not valid and thus their involvement was not encouraged. However, food policy is and should be important to youth, as we will be the ones to experience the increasingly harmful consequences of our corporatized food system in the future. We as youth need to be involved in addressing these issues within our food system by bringing our energy, motivation and innovation, however in order to do so we must have the space and opportunities to have our voices heard.

One way this could be achieved is through encouraging youth to share their ideas and opinions via youth-led journals and school newspapers. Other avenues can be through supporting youth participation in local community efforts like gardens and waste management initiatives. Personally, I am particularly passionate about the idea of engaging youth through community-development initiatives, such as community gardens; as they can act as a ]way to educate youth about the food system and can empower youth by acknowledging that them and their contributions are valuable and meaningful.

Achieving these goals may however be easier said than done. I believe one of the most significant barriers in youth participation is lack of knowledge. I speak from personal experience when I say that until recently I was unaware of many of the major problems of our food system, and was likewise unaware of the fact that I, as someone with no expertise, could become directly involved in challenging the current food system. I think the first step towards changing this is to reach out to youth in a direct way, which information can be provided about relevant issues, current initiatives and the organizations attempting to tackle these problems. While a direct, in-person approach may be time-consuming, I think that it would be truly effective towards engaging and mobilizing youth to create meaningful changes in our food system.

Photo by Juneeja V
Photo by Juneeja V
Photo by Laine Young
Photo by Laine Young