Black people ‘can access food’ under first food sovereignty framework for North America

Minority groups will receive funding to ‘effectively reverse the downward trend of household food insecurity’ Toronto is one step closer to becoming the first city in North America to set up a food sovereignty…

Black people 'can access food' under first food sovereignty framework for North America

Minority groups will receive funding to ‘effectively reverse the downward trend of household food insecurity’

Toronto is one step closer to becoming the first city in North America to set up a food sovereignty framework that focuses on the needs of Black people.

On Wednesday, the City of Toronto’s governance committee voted to implement the plans of the city’s public health department, which was created to develop and implement the framework for Black food sovereignty, as well as other public health measures.

The move came more than three years after the city council first voted in favour of the project, and a step closer to fulfilling the vision of serving a purpose.

The public health department has been working for the past four years to understand the needs of Black people and implement social programs that are sensitive to the different foods that Black people access. Among these, are “very local food hubs that directly link Black communities to sources of healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food”, said Stacey Brown, the head of Toronto’s food sovereignty department.

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“We are working with the local food hubs and organizations that are focused on fostering the diverse food systems that are important to Black people,” she added.

Under the new framework, Black people are supposed to be able to reach all of their basic nutritional needs, such as food insecurity. However, it aims to address all individuals from all racial groups to tackle food accessibility for those who are vulnerable to food insecurity.

The public health department will receive a combined amount of $63,110 over the next two years, beginning in March 2019, to help ensure that the Black food sovereignty initiatives that are included in the framework are adapted to the local communities.

“After review, the council will determine how the money is used. This would provide funding to organizations that are part of the Food Security for All goal to help Black people who experience food insecurity,” said Brown.

The funding will allow the department to focus specifically on three goals: the planning, implementation and engagement of all three projects across the Black community, in partnership with Black community leaders and the wider urban environmental movement.

One of the most visible examples of the Black food sovereignty framework plan is the Northern Arc farmer’s market in a condo tower. The project is an attempt to solve Toronto’s growing food deserts, where high rents and the lack of local produce prompt residents to spend a significant amount of their income on expensive, non-organic food.

Brown hopes the funds will allow the department to take full control of the Northern Arc farmers’ market.

“This will be the first farmers’ market in Canada that provides a real public interest, fully accessible by all. It’s just a shame that it’s become a space where we’re being forced to spend a lot of money,” said Brown.

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Another project will be used to be able to implement a partnership with cafés and cafes in Toronto’s Black neighbourhoods to create a community kitchen program. Brown hopes that the project will provide a solution to the lack of access to affordable, nutritious food in many Black communities.

“We’re working with food banks and community organizations. This is not something that we do alone. We bring our communities into the table to create solutions that help address their needs,” said Brown.

“Black food sovereignty is a policy that will make us a culturally competent government, a neighbourhood that supports itself, and one that is actively involved in mitigating the effects of food insecurity.”

• This article was amended on 10 October 2019. An earlier version stated that Toronto is the first city in North America to set up a food sovereignty framework. Toronto is one of the first cities in North America to define food sovereignty. We have made this clear in the updated version.

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