The TYFPC is the first youth voice among North America’s over 100 food policy councils. A food policy council generally has four functions:
1. To serve as a forum for discussing food issues
2. To foster coordination between sectors in the food system
3. To evaluating and influencing sustainable food policy
4. To support programs and services that address local needs
While the number of food policy councils continues to increase, this model – despite its successes, has neglected to represent the voices of those who will carry the burdens of our unjust food system into the future – youth! As a group of food passionate youth, we will continue to create roots of agency for our peers within the Toronto municipal food policy sector and become a hub for our City’s many young people who care about the future of their food supply. We wholeheartedly believe that our actions as a food policy council by and for youth will not only impact the future of food for generations to come, but will also increase youth participation in food-related discourse.
Food Issues Are Youth Issues
Food has the unique ability to unite us all; its consumption is a political act that the privileged majority of North Americans take part in at least three times a day. Food is a cause for celebration, but when its bounty is denied, it can lead to hunger and pain. Its production and distribution require a great deal of knowledge, but yet, control of our food supply is becoming increasingly centralized and contaminated.
In a city as diverse as Toronto, food realities differ among and between ethnicities, income levels, gender, and of course, age. For example, a newcomer to Toronto may be focused to find a community which shares their cultural food preferences, while a family living below the poverty line may be struggling to feed their family nutritious food in a neighborhood of convenience stores. Despite the complexity of problems in our cities’ food system, the TYFPC collectively believes in a food system which meets and satisfies the unique food needs of its demographic – youth. Furthermore, we support the development of a sustainable, accessible, affordable, nutritious, appropriate, fairly-traded, and regionally-focused food system. To us, when these needs are met food-security is achieved.
We believe that food issues are youth issues. For example, the average farmer in Ontario is in their mid-50’s, while only 9% of Ontario’s farmers are below the age of 35. No matter how strong the urban infrastructure, the sprawling city of Toronto cannot support itself on a regionally based food system if there are no new farmers. According to the Daily Bread Food Bank, 35% of Toronto’s food bank users are below the age of 18 (2009). That is a significant number of children and teenagers who soon will be fending for and feeding themselves.
The TYFPC formed to address these issues and give youth agency through a seat at the municipal food policy table. Since our beginning in September 2009, the TYFPC has been helping to fuel the fire behind the youth-led food movement.