Toronto, 9 April 2013 – 150 enthusiastic people crammed into a hall at the Centre for Social Innovation-Regent Park last night to discuss the need for a national food policy on the eve of a Food Summit gathering executives from some of Canada’s biggest food businesses. The event was co-sponsored by Food Secure Canada, FoodShare Toronto, Sustain Ontario, the Toronto Food Policy Council, the Centre for Social Innovation and the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, and was intended to highlight voices and concerns that the Food Summit should be hearing. Several participants plan to attend the Food Summit, organized by the Conference Board of Canada 9-10 April.
Krystle Henry, from the Regent Park Neighborhood Initiative, where the poverty rate is three times as high as Toronto as a whole stated, “We want to create a community where someone can pick an apple and now worry about who to pay. Any national food policy needs to take into account the needs of those who are from culturally diverse or lower income communities.”
Another speaker, Elisa Levi, stated “Land and food are at the centre of what it means to be indigenous. Food is medicine, yet today there is a dis-connect. Traditional knowledge should be at the centre of all food policy initiatives.” Levi is one of the First Nations collaborators on Resetting the Table: the People’s Food Policy, published in 2011 by Food Secure Canada.
“Land is falling into fewer and fewer hands, but we need that soil to grow our food. Who owns that land is vitally important. This Food Summit is an industry-driven process, but let’s not mistake that for one that serves us all,” said Don Mills, a farmer who is also President of Local Food Plus, a national organization that connects local sustainable farmers and processors to new markets.
Tzazna Miranda Leal, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, described the harsh realities and unjust working conditions faced by many seasonal migrant workers, upon which our agricultural sector increasingly depends. “All migrant workers must be given full status,” she said.
The final speaker, Tasha Sutcliff of Eco-Trust Canada stated, “Today, fish harvesters still have a very hard time staying on the water, and our stocks are still being depleted.” Eco-Trust Canada works toensure that marine activities sustain fish stocks, promote community development and local management, and respect Aboriginal title and rights.
Debbie Field, Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto who will be speaking at the Food Summit on food security said: “The Conference Board is missing an amazing opportunity to involve civil society organizations, new Canadians, entrepreneurs and young farmers in their food strategy development. I wish everyone at the Summit could have been here tonight to feel the energy of young people from all backgrounds wanting a national food policy.”
“Food policy is not the purview of private sector interests alone but must be taken on as a government responsibility. We must get beyond the status quo, which is unhealthy, unfair and unsustainable. This discussion has highlighted some of the innovative work going on across the country. The People’s Food Policy points us in the right direction for a national food policy, and the enthusiasm of this crowd shows many people are interested in being part of the discussion,” said Diana Bronson, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada.