Food is a Right

Petition for our Right to Food

The right to food was legally recognized in Canada in 1976, but is yet to be realized here in Toronto. 

Toronto City Council unanimously passed the Toronto Food Charter over twenty years ago—and yet we still have a growing food security crisis in this city and food is often an afterthought in the City’s policy processes. 

Crisis of Food Insecurity in Toronto 

One in five households in Toronto are food insecure, and for Black and Indigenous households, that number is one in three (PROOF). Black households are 3.56 times more likely to be food insecure than white households, and 1.88 times more likely to be food insecure even after adjusting for socio-economic factors (Toronto Star). 

The majority of people who are food insecure are working (PROOF)—this means that people in our city are working low wage, precarious and temporary jobs that make it impossible to make ends meet. 

The same groups that experience the most food insecurity are also experiencing the highest rates of COVID-19 infections. Many of our neighbours are living with multiple, compounding crises—food insecurity, COVID-19, unsafe and precarious work, unaffordable housing, evictions and over policing. We are at a breaking point in this city. 

Right to Food at the City of Toronto

The City did not apply a right to food lens to many of the decisions made during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the existence of a charter that acknowledges our right to food. 

Community-run food markets and community gardens were closed, while grocery stores remained open. These should have been deemed essential and policies need to be put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again. 

Securing our right to food will require a holistic approach that not only offers socio-economic interventions but also addresses the systems of oppressions in our society including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

Many Black- and Indigenous-led food sovereignty initiatives are still struggling to access resources needed to serve their communities and encountering red tape, delays and other challenges in interacting with the City and its political processes.

Food banks and food charities are an inadequate and inefficient answer to the systemic problem of food insecurity. Food banks are overstretched and under-resourced, and were designed from the outset to be a temporary fix.

A Toronto where the right to food is respected will be a Toronto where all people can make dignified choices about what they eat. 

This is absolutely necessary and it’s entirely possible. 

We believe it should start with the development of a new Toronto Food Charter that centers and is written by those most affected by food insecurity and poverty—Black, Indigenous and racialized people; people with disabilities; workers; and renters. 

This new and improved Toronto Food Charter would need to include a mechanism to ensure the City is accountable for bringing the policy to life and for allocating sufficient funding and resources to make our right to food a reality. 

We are calling on the City to: 

  1. Support the development of a new Toronto Food Charter written by marginalized communities who are most affected by food insecurity to reflect their needs. This requires centering the leadership of people who experience the most food insecurity Black, Indigenous and racialized people; people with disabilities; workers; and renters.
  1. Include a mechanism for the new Toronto Food Charter to ensure that the City is accountable to the communities impacted by its food policies.
  1. Allocate sufficient funding and resources to realize the right to food in Toronto.

Find a one-pager summarizing the Right to Food campaign here, and share widely with your network!