Toronto joins growing movement of cities demanding ‘food sovereignty’

Founded on the principles of first, last and best, the vision for food sovereignty is “to show that food needs to be defined as a basic human right by design, so that farmers, fishers, and processors can work in partnership, reduce waste, allocate food in the most equitable manner, and develop new markets,” according to a press release from the coalition. Toronto Food Sovereignty Coalition: “claims to be the first local food system to stop subsidizing food commodity markets and to include communities at every level in decision-making so that they have a voice in how food is produced, marketed, distributed, and consumed.”

The new plan, to be implemented by the city’s public works and transportation department, was approved by council earlier this month. Under the plan, all public and subsidized meals in Toronto would be “transparently priced” based on the availability of fresh ingredients. The meals would also have assigned lunch times and seat numbers, and food scraps that won’t be used for cooking would be “deemed edible and composted.”

The plan was adopted despite objections from St. James Town residents, as well as from the Toronto Economic Development Corp., which wrote in a letter to council that the city “could not predict the development or availability of sufficient food sources to meet demand for their programs.”

When asked to reconcile the city’s concerns with the fact that a lot of the food scraps and other food that would otherwise be composted have already been donated to other community programs, city officials told the Toronto Star that “the current policies aren’t working. People are getting rid of food in public bins at restaurants, farmers markets and on the street, so they think the alternative is food waste. It really wasn’t the solution. The answer is a zero waste public system that works for everyone, which will cost more money and provide more resources but also create more jobs.”

Meanwhile, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has announced its support for the coalition’s plan, which means that it will be going into effect by July 1. While the coalition believes that “if implemented, the plan will help to create a new economy for food producers and all of those working in food-related sectors, such as food brokers, traders, farmers, food processors, and chefs,” its objective is not to feed everyone. Rather, it aims to create “a stronger and fairer food system that is better informed and more equitable” through a more equitable food system with less waste, according to a report by the C40 Cities Sustainable Cities Climate Leadership Group, of which Toronto is a member.

The United Nations has recognized food sovereignty as a key component of sustainable development. In a report from December 2018, the UN Environment Programme identified food as the number one most under-valued resource and the leading cause of urban pollution worldwide. “It is fundamental to humanity to ensure a more equitable distribution of food,” The Daily News reported in January, “and free from unnecessary waste and environmental degradation, while simultaneously making sure that those who produce food, transport it and sell it are fairly remunerated.”

Read the full story at the Toronto Star and C40 Cities.


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