Past Event: Feeding the City Webinar: Urban Agriculture, School and Community Food Programs

How have individuals’ and families’ food-related activities changed as a result of COVID-19, particularly in light of school closures and rising food insecurity? How can urban growing and government- and community-level initiatives help build a resilient food system? Join the Feeding the City team from Tkaronto (Toronto) as we hear from three experts on these questions:

Rhonda Teitel-Payne is the Co-coordinator of Toronto Urban Growers (TUG). She has been active for over 20 years with programs such as The Stop Community Food Centre, Toronto Community Garden Network, and the World Crops project.

Debbie Field is the Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food and Associate Member, Centre for Studies in Food Security, at Ryerson University. She was the Executive Director of FoodShare for 25 years.

Utcha Sawyers is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of East Scarborough. She was an inaugural member of Food Secure Canada’s Board of Directors (2013-2017), and is an international Food Justice, Equity & Access consultant and advocate.

Moderated by Jayeeta (Jo) Sharma and Sarah Elton. Jo is an Associate Professor of History and Food Studies at the Culinaria Research Centre of the University of Toronto, and the Project Lead for Feeding the City. Sarah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University, and the author of several award-winning popular books on urban food systems. Supported by the Culinaria Research Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough

In Solidarity with Protesting Indian Farmers from Canada.

This December, the Indian Government is putting into effect legislation that has the potential to drastically affect the livelihood of farmers all across the nation. Protests are currently being held by Indian farmers in opposition to the effects of the legislation, as they see the forthcoming changes as a devastating step backwards from their collective rights.

Organizations from around the world are showing their support, and here in Canada, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has released a solidarity statement as well as the background information below.

Backgrounder to NFU statement in solidarity with Indian farmers From:https://www.nfu.ca/backgrounder-to-nfu-statement-in-solidarity-with-indian-farmers/

Why are India’s farmers protesting?

India has 164 million farmers, and many have small farms where they grow food to feed themselves and sell locally to feed their communities. Over half of India’s workforce is involved in the agriculture sector. Hundreds of thousands of farmers are protesting impending changes that will result from three controversial laws. Farm leaders have been in talks with government, demanding that these laws be repealed. Tens of thousands of farmers are in New Delhi itself, and more camped out around the city, blocking entrances. Protests are occurring all across India, with the support of non-farmers in other sectors such as transport. On December 8, the farmers called for a peaceful national general strike in support of their demands.

New laws passed in September set to go into effect in December

In June 2020 the Indian Cabinet put forward three controversial agriculture reform bills in conjunction with its suite of COVID 19 measures. In September, these bills – The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, The Essential Commodities Act (Amendment) Bill and Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill – were passed by the Indian Parliament in a rushed process, without allowing for extended debate or careful examination by a committee. The final vote was conducted by voice rather than ballot, making it impossible to have a clear count of the votes. The bills will become law once they are approved by President Ram Nath Kovind, which is expected to happen in December.

The Bills

The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill – This bill allows for direct contracting between farmers and buyers prior to sowing, but does not require these contracts to be in writing, does not penalize companies that fail to register their contracts, and does not set a minimum price. The farmers can thus be left with no recourse if terms of the contracts are not fulfilled.

The Essential Commodities Act (Amendment) Bill – This bill removes all limits that have, until now, prevented companies from hoarding basic food items including cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions, and potatoes, even in the event of war, famine or natural disaster. This change was made at the request of food processing and food exporting corporations.

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill – This bill deregulates trade by allowing farmers to sell outside of their own state’s Agricultural Produce and Livestock Market Committee (APMC) markets, and prevents states from collecting fees from the markets to fund their operation. This will allow corporations to set up their own, unregulated markets.

Implications for farmers

  • Direct contracting increases the power of buyers. To reduce costs of obtaining supplies, companies will purchase from the largest farms and/or look for the lowest prices. This will lead to small farms no longer having access to any market. As small farmers are forced out, land holdings will become larger and more concentrated. Vertical integration of farms with processing companies will accelerate this process, as risks and debts are offloaded onto the least powerful in the value chain.
  • As small farmers lose their land or are no longer able to survive on lower, deregulated prices they will be forced to leave villages and move to cities, where employment is uncertain. Small farmers produce food for themselves and communities. By shifting from public markets to corporate buyers who operate nationally, food will move towards to larger markets. There will be less food available locally and it will be more expensive.
  • Allowing corporations to hoard food empowers them to buy up supplies at low prices when there is a good harvest. It shifts the public “strategic reserve” meant to buffer volatility and prevent hardship and instead creates private control of the food supply. Companies will be allowed to export hoarded food, even in the event of natural disaster, war or famine in India.
  • The new laws create a positive environment for consolidation of farmland, concentration of ownership in agricultural companies, greater control of markets and prices by large processors, retailers and exporters, and increased sales of commercial seed, chemical inputs such as fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, and digital technology for data mining, surveillance and automation.

Which powerful corporations stand to gain?

Some of the same multinational food, agribusiness and technology companies active in Canada are also active in India: including Bayer, BASF, Dow Dupont, Nestle, Coca Cola, Pespsi, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft. Some of the large agribusiness corporations are also Indian, such as Tata, Bharat Group, Atul, and Nuziveedu Seeds.

Why does this matter to Canadians?

If allowed to go into effect, these laws will increase the power of the world’s largest agribusiness corporations. It will embolden them to demand similar changes in other countries. The ability of large corporations to force down prices to Indian farmers and to demand adherence to corporate priorities as a condition of making a living will affect farmers around the world.As Canadians and fellow farmers we recognize the harm that the Indian laws will do to Indian farmers and their families. We want to live in a world where human lives are respected, where people can democratically shape their future together, carry forward their food cultures intact, and have hope that our children will be able to live well as farmers if and when they choose to.We are stronger when we act together, whether it is by marketing our products or standing up for our rights.

Information brought to you from the National Farmers Union. For more information about the NFU and their work, please visit their website: https://www.nfu.ca/

Hunger and Our Communities: Organization Highlight

In this season of giving, our Feeding City team seeks to highlight and appreciate the tremendous work of just a few of the many food supports organizations that serve a wide range of communities and vulnerable groups that face hunger and food insecurity. An estimated 6,000 new clients accessed food banks in Toronto in June 2020 alone,  as compared to 2,000 in February 2020. There were close to one million visits to food banks in Toronto between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. The report Who’s Hungry — Beyond COVID-19: Building a Future Without Poverty, notes that the rise of food insecurity in Canada is not just a COVID-19 issue. The pandemic has exacerbated the financial situations of many people in Toronto — resulting in food bank use in the city reaching an all-time high.  The report predicts this coming year will have the highest number of food bank visits ever recorded in the city. “Canadians are not in poverty simply because they have ‘fallen through the cracks. Instead, our income security system sets a low floor, one that provides poverty incomes.” In this grave situation, we encourage readers to support the amazing work of these community food support groups, even as we mobilize for systemic and policy change so as to equitably feed our cities and the world.

Junior Researchers: Azra Alavi, Hannah Klemmensen, Olivia Rodrigo, Yusra Khalid.


Photo Courtesy of John Mckay Twitter 2020


Collective Action and Response for Everyone in Scarborough (or C.A.R.E.S.) was a joint project between GlobalMedic, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), and the City of Toronto, running from April 30 to August 14, 2020. The project repackaged bulk food such as lentils and grains  delivered by GlobalMedic into 500 gram bags for distribution to 56 community food justice organizations and food banks in the Scarborough and Durham areas. Run by redeployed City of Toronto and UTSC staff and 164 community and student volunteers, C.A.R.E.S. operated 5 days a week out of the Highland Hall building at UTSC, now converted into a Covid-19 test centre to serve the hard-hit Eastern GTA region.

Watch a 1min clip at Collective Action and Response for Everyone in Scarborough – GlobalMedic COVID-19 Response

Daily Bread

Daily Bread Food Bank Logo (CNW Group/Daily Bread Food Bank)

The Daily Bread Food Bank was founded in 1983 and collaborates with 130+ member food banks and food support programs to provide wider access to nutritious foods. It advocates for the right to food and for systemic changes to end poverty. It values creative and informed approaches to ensure the accessibility and equity of their services that meet the needs of their clients. It aims to engage the local community and food bank clients and provide opportunities for skills development through their Volunteer Action Committee, which conducts the  food bank operations, refers clients to resources and develops programming based on community needs. From its 108,000 sq.ft. distribution hub, Daily Bread supplies food to nearly 200 food programs across Toronto with a fleet of five trucks. Since launching a Farm to Food Bank program, it has rescued hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh, ‘perfectly imperfect’ produce from farms and distributed them to food banks. It has also stepped up its efforts to tackle the issues of lost food and greenhouse gas emissions, starting at the farm level.

Eden Food for Change


Eden Food For Change logo Courtesy of edenffc.org

Eden Food for Change was an initiative by a members of Eden United Church, who formed an informal food bank in 1989. The Eden Community Food Bank, through their fundraising campaigns — including “The Kothari Community Challenge” donation match initiative in partnership with a local business group — met the needs of the community at the most critical time across 2020, and provided continued support through various programs at Mississauga.

Food Share


Photo courtesy of Foodshare.net

FoodShare is a Toronto-based organization that partners with and provides support for community-based food initiatives to facilitate equitable access to nutritious food. Some of their main activities include: distributing good food boxes, local produce markets, supporting school-meal programs, community gardens and delivering food education programs. Through their collaborations with community partners, they aim to center BIPOC voices in the food justice movement and advocate for long-term solutions to end oppressive systems that induce poverty.

ICNA Relief


ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) Relief Canada is a grassroots initiative that collaborates with mainstream food banks, namely, Mississauga food bank, Daily Bread at Thorncliffe, and also with Ottawa food banks. In addition to active efforts during Covid-19, ICNA Relief donated 2000 pounds of food and cash to Mississauga food bank as a gesture of support during these difficult times for Thanksgiving, 2020.

Muslim Welfare Center

Logo courtesy of Muslim Welfare Canada muslimwelfarecentre.com

MWC has been involved in tackling food insecurity for the past 27 years through local neighbourhood-based programs, such as Halal Meals on Wheels and Halal food banks in Montreal, Scarborough and Mississauga. Launched in 2016 with Muslim Welfare Canada as lead agency, and the support of Taibu Community Health Centre, 1 LoveMalvern, 42 Division Toronto Police Service, Malvern Food Bank/Seventh Day Adventist, and Malvern Presbyterian Church, its Malvern Eats program has served over 34,000 meals with the help of 250+ volunteers from all walks of life Their services continued in a modified form during COVID-19 despite the tremendous challenges for volunteers. It adapted to serve  fresh meals and hot lunches (in place of in-person events) through its Meals on Wheels program, across GTA neighbourhoods. For instance, during Thanksgiving 2020, MWC distributed 400+ take-out meals and delivered 95 meals to the doorsteps of vulnerable seniors in Regent Park, Toronto.

National Zakat Foundation

Photo courtesy of National Zakat Foundation nzfcanada.com

National Zakat Foundation is a grassroots initiative that has informally partnered with 40+ organizations to create the Canadian Muslim Response Network (“CMRN”). This network provided assistance of all kind, including food and other basic essentials during COVID-19.  They also coordinated with several local food banks in the city, including unregistered pop-up food bank groups , to better serve food support needs across different parts of the GTA.

North York Harvest Food Bank

Photo Courtesy of northyorkharvest.com

North York Harvest strives to provide dignified food assistance to its community, through securing healthy food donations to supporting well-connected and welcoming community food banks. This also means respecting the diverse circumstances that bring clients to their doors. They recognize that for many of the recently unemployed, seniors, families with children, and people living with disabilities, food banks are a last, yet necessary, resort. As the distribution hub for northern Toronto, North York Harvest works  to provide food support, programming and connections. Before the pandemic, they offered many programs and services in addition to food warehousing and distribution operations, with a diverse front line service agencies. Programs included community garden activities, free pick-your-own gleaning trips, as well as work with community food banks such as Bathurst-Finch, Oriole & Lawrence Heights Community Food Space. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they adapted raising funds virtually, especially through their North York Harvest Hamper Hero program where a gift of $15 to provides a family in need with an emergency food hamper of staples such as canned beans, fish, and pasta.

Scarborough Food Security Initiative

Photo Courtesy of Scarborough Food Security Initiative


The Scarborough Food Security Initiative started after March 2020 as an informal community initiative among citizens in Southwest Scarborough who realized the extreme need to fill the gaps left by food bank closures. The initiative has since grown to operate 4 food banks and a mobile meal truck. They plan to open a food service training center in the coming months. They emphasize that food is a human right, taking innovative steps to ensure that the experience of accessing food supports is dignified. They have recently converted their food banks to a ‘grocery store’ model that allows more choice in what items a person chooses to take home. The project is running a ‘reverse advent calendar’ donation drive throughout December.

Second Harvest

Photo Courtesy of Second Harvest

Second Harvest aims to tackle the climate crisis and address food insecurity in Canada. Their core mission is to reduce food waste in the food industry by procuring excess perishable food. They deliver such foods to food banks and other community organizations that provide food support, such as shelters, community centres and drop-in meal programs. Their online site , FoodRescue.ca allows businesses to connect directly with local organizations and charities to distribute surplus food. Their Harvest Kitchens program trains adults and youth with barriers to employment in food preparation. Every day, Second Harvest drivers deliver a portion of donated fresh and frozen food to Harvest Kitchens partners, including: Centre for Opportunities Respect and Empowerment (CORE), East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, Frontlines Toronto, Hospitality Workers Training Centre, and YMCA – Charles Street. From July to August 2020, volunteers and partners assembled and distributed 1,600 kits a week to families across the GTA. This ‘Camp in a Box’ was filled with ingredients for healthy lunches, activities, and a food education resource. They encourage people to follow them on social @SecondHarvestCA for updates and to sign up for their newsletter to get the latest on special events.

Seva Food Bank

Image courtesy of Seva Food Bank Sevafoodbank.com


The Seva Food Bank, a 10-year old initiative of Sikhs Serving Canada, is based in Mississauga. It recognizes that people dealing with food insecurity may not get enough nutrients leading to a variety of health illnesses. Therefore, in addition to providing food hampers, it has undertaken initiatives to fulfill the dietary needs of community members by offering them fresh food and vegetables. In 2019, they received professional certification for their community kitchen where we taught clients to cook simple and nutritious meals using the affordable ingredients they could find at the food bank. They have focused during the pandemic on supplying an average of 100,000 pounds of culturally-appropriate food, alongside support services in five languages, to low-income families living across seven postal codes. To facilitate donations, they maintain a regularly updated database of donated items and what is most in need for those communities, such as frozen halal meat, baby formula, atta flour, and fresh produce.

The Stop

Image courtesy of The Stop thestop.org

The Stop believes that nutritious, sustainable, and culturally appropriate food is a human right for all. From its origins as one of Canada’s first food banks in the 1980’s, The Stop blossomed into a thriving community hub where neighbours could participate in a broad range of programs that provided healthy food, foster social connections, build food skills, and promote civic engagement. It created a range of programs to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community, and challenges inequality. In 2020, at a critical time for the containment of COVID–19, The Stop Community Food Centre took a decision to shift its resources away from community programming and towards emergency food access services. Its Food Bank provided a three-day supply of food, once per month, to registered individuals and families from the catchment area. Through creative partnerships and the support of donors, its hampers feature fresh produce, milk, eggs, whole grains, a seasonal vegetable each month, with accompanying food demos and recipes.


TNO Food Collaborative

Image courtesy of TNO

ig: @tnofoodcollaborative

The TNO (The Neighbourhood Office) Food Collaborative primarily serves the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon communities in East York, Toronto. Its food bank serves approximately 700 families across these Muslim-majority neighborhoods with a focus on halal and South Asian staples. This collaborative was initiated in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic when there was an increasing demand for food supports in these neighborhoods where a majority of the population belongs to newcomer and racialized communities, and a high proportion of essential workers.

Toronto Miracle 

Image courtesy of Toronto Miracle


 On December 5th, 2020 at 10am, residents of Toronto were invited to leave a non-perishable food item on their doorstep (clearly marked for Toronto Miracle – TM). Volunteers collected these donations and redistributed them through neighbourhood food banks and support networks. Over 140,000 items of non-perishable foods were collected by more than 2500 volunteers. Donations went directly to over 300 neighbourhood organizations and TM’s partner organizations Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest, & North York Harvest Food Bank. This followed similar drives in Canadian localities such as Ottawa, Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex, and Montreal. This grassroots initiative is run completely on volunteer power.

U of T Emergency Foodbank


With the closure of the University of Toronto St. George food bank due to Covid-19, students and recent graduates became aware of an urgent need for a support system for vulnerable members facing food insecurity. This impelled them to create the U of T Emergency Foodbank. This is a joint project between Trek for Teens and Engineers without Borders. It offers weekly deliveries of FoodShare’s Good Food Boxes to students and their families in need. Since opening in April, the operation has delivered over 1200 boxes to over 300 students. It plans to expand into a more sustainable, long-term operation in the coming months.

Who Is Hussain

Image courtesy of who is Hussain


Since its London (UK) beginnings in 2012, Who is Hussain (WIH) has rapidly grown into a global movement with representatives in over 60 cities around the world. It seeks to empower communities around the world to organize charitable events for the common good. In the GTA, WIH’s grassroots initiative, is responsive to the dietary needs of the Muslim community and helps food banks as part of those campaigns. For instance, in August 2020, WIH donated fresh halal chicken packets to Masumeen Muslim Food Bank in Thornhill as part of their neighbourhood campaigns.


Reference: Who’s Hungry Report, 2020: https://www.dailybread.ca/research-and-advocacy/whos-hungry-report-2020/

Event Highlight: Dishing Up Toronto Dumpling Making Virtual Workshop Friday, December 18th 6 – 7:30pm

Dishing Up Toronto is, by now, a longstanding partnership with the Toronto Ward Museum. Through creative, equity-focused Culinary Tourism, DUT aims to showcase the diverse foodways of Toronto. These two events are co-organized with CaterToronto, an innovative social enterprise seeking to increase newcomer and women’s access to secure employment in the food economy through community-based catering. 

Eventbrite Link: Dishing Up Toronto Dumpling Making Virtual Workshop Friday, December 18th 6 – 7:30pm

Eventbrite Link: Dishing Up Toronto Dumpling Making Virtual Workshop Friday, December 18th 6 – 7:30pm

Related Event:

Dishing Up Toronto Interactive Event: Love Letter to Toronto’s Food and Food Makers. Saturday December 19th 6 – 7pm

Event Highlight: Dishing Up Toronto Interactive Event: Love Letter to Toronto’s Food and Food Makers. Saturday December 19th 6 – 7pm

Dishing Up Toronto is, by now, a longstanding partnership with the Toronto Ward Museum. Through creative, equity-focused Culinary Tourism, DUT aims to showcase the diverse foodways of Toronto. These two events are co-organized with CaterToronto, an innovative social enterprise seeking to increase newcomer and women’s access to secure employment in the food economy through community-based catering. 

Eventbrite Link: Love Letter to Toronto’s Food and Food Makers. Saturday December 19th 6 – 7pm

Eventbrite Link: Love Letter to Toronto’s Food and Food Makers. Saturday December 19th 6 – 7pm

Related Event:

Dishing Up Toronto Dumpling Making Virtual Workshop Friday, December 18th 6 – 7:30pm

Announcement: Full webinar recordings are available on the Feedingcity.org

As a part of this projects initiative we provide our fully recorded webinars on our youtube channel: Feeding City and our resource page at https://feedingcity.org/resources/

Watch full webinars below or click the link to watch it on youtube and subscribe to our channel for more relevant content.

Webinar 1: Feeding the City Webinar: Urban Agriculture, School and Community Food Programs

Webinar 2: Feeding the City, Webinar 2: Voices from Local Grocery Stores and Public Markets in a Diverse City

Webinar 3: Feeding the City Webinar 3: Women Farmers on COVID-19 and Food Sovereignty

Event Highlight: Thinking Outside of the Donation Box: Looking beyond the charity model of addressing food insecurity in Canada. Thursday December 17, 1 pm to 2:30 pm EST

Thinking Outside of the Donation Box:  Looking beyond the charity model of addressing food insecurity in Canada  

Thurs. Dec. 17, 1 pm to 2:30 pm EST

A message from Trent University:

As we near the 40th anniversary of food banking in Canada, food insecurity is only growing. The most Canadians ever, 4.4 million, were living with food insecurity before the pandemic and that number is only increasing. As corporate food retail profits soar while our Prime Minister implores Canadians to donate to food banks, a broken system is increasingly revealed. 

Join this live illustrated event to hear two food insecurity experts discuss the charity food model from the perspectives of income security and food systems – and provide their thoughts on how we can move forward.


Elaine Power  (Professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Studies and Head of Gender Studies at Queen’s University)

Rod MacRae (Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University) 

Registration at Eventbrite is required and is limited to 100 participants:

Thinking Outside of the Donation Box<https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/thinking-outside-of-the-donation-box-tickets-130744892493>

This webinar is supported by Trent University and Grow Change, a community-campus enterprise dedicated to realizing a more sustainable and just local food system. http://trentu.ca/growchange

Afri-Can FoodBasket presents Cultivating Black Food Sovereignty In Toronto Celebrating the Past, Envisioning the Future November 27th – 28th, 2020

Location: Virtual (Zoom) Conference


5:30pm – 8:30pm (November 27 th ); 9:00am – 2:30pm (November 28th)

On Friday, November 27th and Saturday, November 28th , Afri-Can FoodBasket (AFB) will be hosting Toronto’s first Black Food Sovereignty Conference, a FREE, online event exploring the cultivation of food sovereignty in Toronto’s African, Caribbean & Black (ACB) communities. This special event will take place online via Zoom video conferencing platform from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm on November 27th and from 9:00 am – 2:30 pm on November 28th.

A University of Toronto study revealed that 30% of Black households in Canada experience food insecurity, more than twice the national average. This level of food insecurity illustrates the challenges ACB families face in accessing healthy and culturally-specific foods

One of the most distressing examples of this challenge is in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, where 24% of ACB households were food insecure prior to COVID-19, according to a 2019 study by the Daily Bread Food Bank.

The Cultivating Black Food Sovereignty In Toronto virtual conference will reflect the vigorous efforts made at the community level to achieve food security for ACB communities over the past 25+ years. This important event will help participants and key stakeholders understand the meaning of Black Food Sovereignty, how the COVID-19 pandemic placed a high emphasis in acknowledging food insecurities within ACB communities, and the collective mobilization of grassroots organizations and initiatives such as AFB’s Black Food Toronto initiative developed to provide emergency food relief response for ACB families in need. Most importantly, this event will highlight the various intersectional issues facing the ACB community as they relate to Black Food Sovereignty in Toronto. In addition, it will aim to further strengthen commitments to build a Toronto Black Food Sovereignty Alliance to achieve food sovereignty for the ACB community in Toronto.

Speakers at the conference include Melana Roberts, Chair of Food Secure Canada, Aina-Nia Ayo’dele Grant, Community Resources Social Development, Finance and Administration City of Toronto, Anan Lololi, Founder and Interim Director of Afri-Can FoodBasket & Research Associate at Ryerson University, Malik Kenyatta Yakini, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), Kirubel Tadele, Communications Officer, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Saché Jones, Member of National Black Food & Justice Alliance in America, and Edward Benote Hill, Program Manager of the EcoDistricts Accelerator Program and Development Manager of the Black Community Food Systems Initiative located in NE Portland.

Afri-Can FoodBasket (AFB) is a community-based, non-profit organization that has been at the forefront of championing Food Justice and Food Sovereignty for Toronto’s ACB communities since 1995. With a mission to provide leadership in urban agriculture, and foster collaboration to advance food justice, health and social enterprise in the African Canadian Community. AFB now seeks to lead the development of a Black Food Sovereignty Alliance to address the ever growing disparities affecting Toronto’s ACB Community.

We encourage all community members to join us on Friday, November 27th and Saturday, November 28th for the Cultivation of Black Food Sovereignty In Toronto conference.

For more information, please contact Zakiya at 647-962-3479 or email: pr@africanfoodbasket.ca

Webinar Highlight: Exploring Critical Food Studies with the Canadian Association for Food Studies By: Madeleine Frechette

In its simplest form, the field of critical food studies examines where food comes from and how people relate to the food that they eat. However, to confine critical food studies to such simplistic terms would be a significant disservice to the ever-evolving field. The systems through which food is produced, distributed, and consumed are subject to constant change, as they intersect with the formal and informal social, cultural, and political actors which shape societal relations. Understanding this, scholars operating in this field approach food studies from an increasingly critical, intersectional perspective. Among said scholars are those at the Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS), a group of academics, professionals, and community members promoting critical, interdisciplinary scholarship in the area of food studies. On November 19, CAFS promoted such scholarship at the webinar Everything you always wanted to know about critical agri-food studies (but were too afraid to ask).  

This CAFS webinar featured two leading scholars in the field of critical food studies: Dr. Michael Carolan and Dr. Kelly Bronson. Michael Carolan is a Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, who brought his external expertise as an American scholar to the conversation. He is also a published author and researcher, with a particular focus on issues pertaining to food, sustainability, and agriculture. Kelly Bronson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies and a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Science and Society at the University of Ottawa. She is also a published author and researcher, with a particular focus on the technologies and methods of governance that generate tension between science and society. Carolan is currently a Fulbright visitor at the University of Ottawa, where he is working with Bronson on a cross-national comparative research project on digital agriculture for small, sustainable food producers in the United States and Canada. In this webinar, Bronson and Carolan engaged in active discussion on various topics related to critical food studies, including assumptions regarding critical food scholars, research methods, and scholar activism as a means of representation. 

Throughout the webinar, extensive discussion was generated regarding the assumptions associated with the title of “critical food scholar.” Carolan explained that in his own experience, the intersectional nature of food studies has challenged his identity as a scholar in the field. He explained that it is difficult to assume one singular scholarly identity, such as “rural sociologist,” as doing so would seemingly confine his identity as a researcher and academic to one singular field. It is through the intersectional nature of the field that critical food studies challenges such narrow identities, and instead uplifts scholars operating in the field to engage with a wide variety of factors that influence the production and consumption of food. Carolan and Bronson pointed to the specific example of the “critical agri-food scholar.” They explained that such an identity moves beyond the materiality of food, and instead acknowledges agriculture as an intrinsically distinguished factor in the production of food.  

In their discussion, the speakers specifically alerted to the increasingly “critical” nature of critical food studies. It remains true that the challenges which are most pervasive in the food system are systemically maintained by the various social and political actors that intersect and influence the production and consumption of food. The gravity of such systemic challenges has resulted in the emergence of food scholarship that Carolan and Bronson explained to be increasingly negative. Carolan described such negative scholarship as enabling feelings of powerlessness and dread, as resistance to the systemic insufficiencies in the food system is often deemed to be futile.  

However, rather than solely acknowledge the negative narratives that emerge from food studies scholarship, Carolan and Bronson consistently reiterated that such narratives can increase representation for those who have been silenced in the food system. According to Bronson, the approach taken in critical food studies enables researchers to make visible those who are seemingly unrepresentable in the food system. Carolan referred to this approach to representing those who have been invisibilized as the “bright- and blind-spots” of research. Critical food research allows for concepts related to the production and consumption of food to be recentered on those of have been silenced in the food system, hence the notion of the bright-spot. By illuminating those individuals, it is inevitable that others in the food system will be decentered in the presented narrative, hence the notion of the blind-spot. Still, Carolan asserted that being cognisant of those who have been silenced in the food system, and using scholarly investigation to illuminate their experiences, is the duty of the critical food scholar.  

To close the webinar, Carolan and Bronson examined critical food representation as a method of scholar activism. Carolan asserted that critical food scholars engage in scholar activism by telling the stories of those who have been silenced in the food system. By telling these localized stories, critical food scholars may produce narratives regarding food equity, justice, and sovereignty that reveal the social, political, and economic structures that maintain and exacerbate systemic insufficiencies. Bronson explained that this approach to research challenges the traditional, non-interventionist perspective employed by food scholars in the past. In doing so, critical food scholars actively engage in scholar activism, challenge systemic barriers, and meaningfully engage in the food system in a way that can illuminate solutions for lasting change.   

Over the past several months, Feeding the City has engaged in these critical approaches to scholar activism by highlighting the experiences of those who have been silenced within the Canadian food system in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an attempt to spotlight various long-standing vulnerabilities in the food system, the team has highlighted the experiences of the small-scale, ecological farmers who have been left relatively unsupported during the pandemic, as well as the experiences of migrant agricultural workers who have been exploited within the Canadian agricultural sector. Team members have also highlighted the innovative work of community food banks and urban growers in maintaining service to the individuals and families facing food insecurity in Toronto during the pandemic. Such innovation has also been witnessed in the responses of local markets and grocery stores to the COVID-19 pandemic, which have been spotlighted in the most recent installment of the Feeding the City webinar series. Through this work, the Feeding the City team has been able to amplify the voices of those who are most often underrepresented in the Canadian food system on a local, provincial, and national level. While we will continually consider ‘blind-spots’ that we may have missed in our research, by amplifying the voices and experiences that we have, the Feeding the City team has been able to illuminate the incredible work of many individuals and communities operating across Canada. At the same time, the team has been striving to exemplify both the potential for community-based resilience on a localized level within the food system, and the kinds of initiatives that are worthy of increased support from government and other institutions and actors.  

Additional Resources 

To watch the webinar with Dr. Michael Carolan and Dr. Kelly Bronson, access the recording here: Everything you always wanted to know about critical agri-food studies (but were too afraid to ask). 

To learn more from Dr. Michael Carolan, consult his many books and academic publications for further reading: 

Books by Carolan: 

Academic publications by Carolan: 

To learn more from Dr. Kelly Bronson, please consult her books and academic publications for further reading: 

Book by Bronson: 

Academic publications by Bronson: 

To learn more from the Canadian Association for Food Studies, here are various, open-access resources: 

Research Article Highlight: Beyond Health & Nutrition: Re-framing school food programs through integrated food pedagogies”

This research article by Barbara Parker and Mario Koeppel confirms that a universal cost-shared healthy school food program is needed in Canada. This integrative approach to food extends our understanding of food beyond charity, and opens up conversations about food as a human right. Its analysis shows the need to go beyond a health or nutrition school food program and consider integrative food pedagogies which will promote social and environmental food justice in the school food environment.


Also Check out some of our latest posts:

Impact of COVID-19 on Hawker Culture in Singapore by Lynne Chia: https://feedingcity.org/2020/11/23/impact-of-covid-19-on-hawker-culture-in-singapore-by-lynne-chia/

Organization Highlight: Seva Food Bank “This Diwali: Let’s share our light with others and help feed those who need it!” By Yusra Khalid: https://feedingcity.org/2020/11/15/organization-highlight-seva-food-bank-this-diwali-lets-share-our-light-with-others-and-help-feed-those-who-need-it-by-yusra-khalid/

ONLINE EVENT – Feeding the City, Pandemic and Beyond: Women Farmers on COVID-19 and Food Sovereignty: https://feedingcity.org/2020/11/17/online-event-feeding-the-city-pandemic-and-beyond-women-farmers-on-covid-19-and-food-sovereignty/

“Article” Highlight: Love Letter to Scarborough

Scarborough is not only home to the Feeding the City project (via the University of Toronto Scarborough), but it is also home to a wide range of incredible restaurants. In this podcast episode, Radiyah Chowdhury discusses Scarborough’s food scene, its history, and its tentative future that is precarious as a result of both the pandemic and longer-term challenges such as gentrification. Featured in this episode is our own Project Lead, Dr. Jayeeta Sharma. Here is the full description from the Frequency Podcast Network:

“No matter where you’re from, there’s probably a restaurant or a dish that reminds you of home. It’s the best food in the world to you because it makes you feel something: that cozy sense of belonging that’s hard to find these days. In this episode, producer Radiyah Chowdhury introduces us to her home in Scarborough, ON. Come explore the food scene in this oft-underestimated area of Toronto, where the cuisine represents a long and tangled history of colonialism, immigration, and the search for home. This is Radiyah’s paradigm.”