Notes from TYFPC Food & Mental Health Community Meeting

Food and mental healthThanks everyone who attended the June 2014 Toronto Youth Food Policy Community Meeting! This month’s topic was Food & Mental Health. We looked at the intersection of food and mental health from a variety of perspectives. The meeting featured Fat Girl Food Squad, Houselink, one of our very own Council Members, and the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre.

This was our final session of the 2013-2014 TYFPC year and that means in the next few months we will be refreshing the TYFPC Council with new members. Connect with us on facebook  or sign up for our newsletter to receive notice of  meetings, events, and to find out how to join the 2014-2015 TYFPC Council.

If you have any comments or questions, please email us at


TYFPC Community Meeting Minutes
Monday, June 2, 2014 6:00-8:00PM
PARC, Toronto

Special thanks to the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre for hosting us and one of our community members, Drew Silverthorn, and several volunteers, for preparing a delicious plant-based meal for everyone.

Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC): Bob Rose

  • Most drop-in centres don’t treat food programs as part of the recovery of the health of the individual.
  • There are 28 drop-in centres in the Metro Toronto area and many of these centres are serving individuals from communities that cannot provide for their own.
  • PARC itself receives approx. $10k a year to feed almost 200-300 people a day… this isn’t enough but is reflective of the priorities of the government. Much of our food comes from donations and aid from other organizations such as Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank etc.
  • Impacts their self-esteem, mental health and ability to learn. Food requires skills that need to be learned but then can also be transferred.
  • Food has always been a powerful component of people coming together.

Fat Girl Food Squad: Ama Scriver

Fat Girl Food Squad is a blog focused on the intersection of food, feminism and fat. 

  • In terms of food and women, we are often judged.
  • Media and culture uses this relationship to create fear in the hearts that manifests itself in all types of situations: out in a restaurant, at home by yourself and so on.
  • It is very emotionally difficult and taxing to always being
  • Three themes Fat Girl Food Squad focuses on: food, feminism and fat.
  • Often feminism is considered an angry term – we look at it as simply the relationship between women and culture.
  • Body shaming doesn’t just occur just for people who are viewed as overweight. Girls who are commonly considered thin will also experience body shaming when out at a restaurant and criticized for not eating enough, for example.
  • Everyone has a right to be both healthy and happy. We try and show that you can be both exercising and fat.
  • We have a strong belief that women should not be afraid to show themselves eating food as well. We try and use our online presence and platform to showcase women eating food.
  • Often we don’t feel as if there is a community built around people struggling with a similar issue: body image. So regardless of your size we hope to build a Toronto community. Certainly, we focus on plus-sized issues.
  • People should not be stigmatized for their food choices; at the end of the day, we want people to be healthy and healthy comes in all shapes and sizes.

TYFPC: Jessica Reeve

On the benefits of horticultural therapy and its intersection with prison farming.

  • Prison farms were eliminated in Canada by the Conservative government in 2011.
  • Horticultural therapy is much more curriculum-based. They are geared towards working with your hands but also gaining that plant and food knowledge, which is not explicit nor is there time made for it in prison farms.
  • There have been lots of studies in the UK done on the quality of food that inmates eat and how this impacts their behaviour and their mental health. Prisons in the UK are moving towards improving the food that is served in their institutions as a result.
  • There have also been many studies done on the curative powers of working with soil and gardening; this is also extended to animal therapy, which is implied in ranching and animal farming.
  • Often farming gives you a sense of responsibility that otherwise in correctional facilities can be missing. There is quick benefit obvious in farming and subsequently harvesting a good that is practical, biologically essential and brings people together. Studies have shown that these inmates involved in prison farming also are better able to adapt to society after their release, as they have a learned skill that is required and in demand in the workforce.
  • Studies also show that acts of gardening releases many endorphins and positive chemicals, as well as exhausts the body, which lowers instances of violence among inmates.

Houselink: David Dufoe

Learn more about Houselink.

  • Houselink started in 1977 on the basis of trying to help people who have been discharged from mental institutions to find housing in Toronto.
  • I want to tell you about how a food program developed in an organization that has nothing to do with food.
  • When I was growing up in participated in cooking and we were a family that struggled to put three meals on a table a day. But I have many fond memories of my upbringing as my mother was very forward-thinking and practical; she made sure we were never hungry and were always limiting food waste.
  • We had lots of members coming to Houselink hungry, angry and tired. We were a very community-oriented organization, so we proposed to the members that we would buy the food and we had a kitchen – so if they wanted the food they could prepare it.
  • We eventually grew into a program using 8 community kitchens. Eventually demand grew so much that we outgrew our space at Houselink.
  • One of the biggest challenges we were facing was and is providing nutritious food. We just don’t have the resources. At the same time we were trying to provide education on preparing nutritious meals.
  • People who live in our housing also do work around their housing. The kitchen became a good way to employ these people as well. When you cook for someone and see others enjoy it; that type of positive affirmation does wonders for them.

The group breaks out into three discussion groups, led by our three speakers from tonight: Ama, Jessica, and David & Kira.

As a post meeting activity,  Bob Rose from PARC took community members on a shorter version of the Belly Full: A History of Hunger Resistance in Parkdale Jane’s Walk he led earlier this year in May.

Other Links


Committed to public education in optimal nutrition and raising awareness of Orthomolecular Medicine, Orthomolecular Health has been reaching audiences across Canada for 45 years. Register now for their June 25th event: Gut Reactions: A Nutritional Approach to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


The 3rd Annual Ride4RealFood is about biking for food security in the city. There are three cycling routes: a 30km, a 65km and a 115km. All routes end at the historic McVean Farm in Brampton where you and your fellow riders will join the McVean Farm Harvest Festival for a culinary celebration of fresh, healthy and local food.

All funds raised also support better access to fresh, healthy and local food for low-income people living in Toronto. It all happens through the Coop Cred Program, a partner project of the West End Food Coop and PARC.

Registration for the Ride 4 Real Food will open up soon, come to the Ride4RealFood Launch party on June 26, 6-9pm at Capital Espresso to find out more about the event.


020614_CommunityMeetingMinutes (View or download minutes at this link, in PDF format).

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