Welcome to our Community Garden

Group of people standing outside holding a sign at a FoodShare community garden

1995 to 1999 - Welcome to our Community Garden

Context

  • The discussion paper “Food For Now and The Future” was published in 1995 by the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) Food Security Working Group outlining a Food and Nutrition Strategy for Ontario under three themes: Income, Health, and Agriculture. The paper served as the basis of the ven diagram developed by Debbie Field as the basis of unity of FoodShare. FoodShare participated as a community member of the working group and later published a comic book version of the report prepared by cartoonist Tony Biddle as his Masters Thesis from Environmental Studies at York University.
  • The consultative Food 2002 process began in 1996 bringing together farmers, the private sector, community organization, food banks, social welfare-agencies and government to plan how to make nutritious food available to all Ontarians within 5 years. Eight critical themes were developed including 28 policy and grassroots actions.
  • In 1997, Bill 103, pushed for the amalgamation of Metro Toronto’s six municipalities. If passed the Bill would download Provincial responsibilities to Municipalities for provision of social welfare services, increasing the Municipality’s contribution from 20% to 50%. HungerWatch, a group formed in response to the Bill, and other disturbing social policy trends suspected that this would result in further reductions to funding for social programs. FoodShare was an active member involved in advocating for adequate social assistance rates.
  • To meet obligations from the 1995 World Food Summit, the Federal government released Canada’s Action Plan for Food Security in 1998, recognizing the important role played by civil society “in social, political and economic reform, through public education, advocacy and participation in public policy formulation”. FoodShare was one of the civil society organizations consulted in developing the plan and was actively involved with Dr. Rod Macrae and the Toronto Food Policy Council in the process.
  • In 1999, the Toronto Food and Hunger Action Committee released the report ‘Food For Thought’ in an effort to get the City to address hunger issues. FoodShare staff were very involved in this Committee and developments of its recommendations which included Toronto’s Food Charter and grants for food projects.

 Directions

  • FoodShare agreed through their strategic planning process on a series of program priorities aimed to address food injustice including 1) Access to food, 2) Local Food, 3) Sustainable food.
  • In recognition of Toronto’s cultural diversity, FoodShare actively partnered with some of Toronto’s diverse ethnic communities working closely with the Afri-Can Food Basket. Using a community development partnership model, they created demonstration gardens to showcase existing skills and capacity for producing, harvesting and preparing more diverse and culturally appropriate produce within Toronto communities.
  • FoodShare continued to search for solutions from around the world about how to deal with hunger issues. One of the best examples came from the Brazilian City of Belo Horizonte, dubbed ‘the city that ended hunger’ by some food policy experts by using municipal subsidies to increase access to healthy fresh food at reduced cost to consumers. Debbie Field travelled to Brazil and visited Belo Horizante in 1997, bringing back new insight into how the models could inform programs and solutions at FoodShare.
  • In 1996, FoodShare’s Board of Directors established a building emergency fund (to acquire new premises if the rental situation changed) and a staff emergency fund to provide severance pay to staff in the event of cessation of funding.

Milestones

  • In 1995, FoodShare moved produce distribution operations to Eastern Avenue,– a City owned warehouse in the West Don Lands slated for demolition. The City allowed FoodShare to use the building rent free because their partnership on programs like the Good Food Box. The new location provided an opportunity to tap into new resources, incubate, and diversify programming. Eastern Avenue housed FoodShare’s first food hub, which included a rooftop garden and greenhouse, beekeeping, kitchen and warehouse space. Due in part to its geographic isolation from neighbours, FoodShare was able to experiment with programs that may have otherwise faced resistance such as mid-scale composting and beekeeping. The location also provided direct partnership opportunities in a low-income community with little food access, enabling FoodShare to pilot new programs including a rooftop garden (1996), Baby and Toddler Nutrition (1996), Field to Table Catering (1996), and Power Soups (1998).
  • In 1996, FoodShare opened the Toronto Kitchen Incubator, promoting sustainable development of the food sector. FoodShare’s Eastern Avenue location provided a licensed commercial kitchen where entrepreneurs who could not afford expensive equipment could try out their food ideas on a larger scale .
  • The Focus on Food program was started in 1995 to help women on social assistance enter the work force. The program evolved into the Focus on Food Youth Intern Program in 1997, supporting young adults to gain employment and life skills through working in FoodShare programs.
  • In 1998, the Toronto Partners for Student Nutrition was formed as an administrative structure to ensure program quality and accountability of City-wide student nutrition programs. Partners included Toronto Public Health, School, Boards of Education, and their foundations, FoodShare and other community representatives.
  • FoodShare chaired the Toronto Community Garden Network established in 1999 to help coordinate relationships between gardeners and the City, conduct job training and leadership development.

Assets

Annual Revenues Good Food Program Sales   Catering Sales
1995 $1,413,404 $346,624
1996 $2,234,260 $448,351 $11,675
1997 $2,270,380 $556,490 $133,510
1998 $2,819,166 $626,232 $126,697
1999 $2,623,485 $732,998 $175,236


Number of Staff

In 1995 there were 10 full time staff growing to 18 by 1999.

Location

While FoodShare continued to have its administration and education office at 238 Queen Street West, in 1995 they moved produce distribution to 200 Eastern Avenue, establishing that location as the Field to Table Centre, with its warehouse, gardens, roof top greenhouse, mid-scale composting and beekeeping areas.

References

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