Attending Foodprint Toronto on July 31st was invigorating to say the least. Hopefully people who attended or caught any of their live stream will find a renewed interest in what food sustainability is, urban agriculture, and how we can play our part in the future of our food & the city- wherever we live. The first ever Foodprint Toronto was held at the Artscape Wychwood Barns. Some small tidbits about this space that Foodprint used. It was once used by the TTC to repair their streetcars, and today it is a multi-use complex housing several sustainable projects, community partnerships, the art community, and has gardens and greenhouses managed by The Stop Community Food Centre.
During the session, I managed to take a few notes and twittered a few tidbits about what was happening. To catch-up on the twitter updates search up #foodprintTO on twitter. Meanwhile, here's a rundown of what happened.
First up were panelists Jessica Duffin Wolfe (Arts & Book Editor), Barbara Emmanuel (senior policy advisor at Toronto Board of Health & author of the city's new food strategy), Pat Pessotto (VP or Longos - Toronto based grocery store) and Lola Sheppard (partner of an architecture firm). The topic Zoning Diet was admittedly a tad slow for the crowd to jumpstart the discussion. However, it was saved by the discussion between Lola and Pat. At one point, Pat indicated securing land from farmers is something that should be initiated. Lola wondered if that is something that the farmers even wanted. Panelists also discussed how to bring more new players to the food diet and to use the current information. They discussed how they could have a more sustainable food system while navigating the current zoning rules. One panelist wondered how the Ontario Food Terminal (the largest food & distribution terminal located inside T.O which allows farmers to wholesale their food to retailers to be distributed to the farmer markets and to other places) could be used in a 'think outside of the box way'. There was talk about the potential of the OFT, perhaps to even use the OFT for food justice, a way to navigate the system, and perhaps a way to get hold of the compost that comes from the OFT.
Next up was the topic on Culinary Cartography - What can we learn when we map Toronto using food as the metric with panelists Mike Fram (with an article from the Edible City), Chis Hardwicke (involved in city building projects e.g. Lawrence Heights Development Plan, Taiwan Waterfront), Laurel Atkinson (from Not Far from the Tree), and Darren O'Donnell (novelists, writer, director and more). This talk about Culinary Cartography started off much more upbeat as panelists were asked by moderator Sarah Rich to give a visual of how to map Toronto within their various areas of expertise and experiences. Laurel Atkinson, in order to explain to everyone how their program worked, asked everyone to 'put their fruit goggles' to view the city. Essentially, there are lots of people that volunteer their time to pick fruit on homeowner's land, in public and private places that would often go to waste. That, and last year they saved about nine thousand pounds of fruit! Mike Fram asked everyone to imagine a city growing not as 'peanut butter, but as chunky peanut butter'. Chris indicated that we need to look at how all the systems overlap and Darren talked about how he connected the city between and within different generations by organizing dinners. This, he explained helped to break down the barriers between groups using food. Chris also mentioned that most of the discussions are at a grassroot discussion and has not even reach the policy level. When asked by the moderator how they could change people minds want change now all four indicated that you had to 'occupy the space', to go with it, to not wait for policy to catch up but instead to just start a garden under the hydro lines, to provide people with the means (e.g. providing free childcare, handing out free food) and as Chris O'Donnell suggests, to consider food as an infrastructure in itself. If food was a physical thing, that is giant and has an artistic scope to it, people will want change.
The third session discussed Edible Archeology. Panelists in this group included Rebecca O'neil (PhD @ UT), Robert Wright (professor), Shawn Micallef (senior editor of Spacing), and Natasha & Andrew Akiwenzie (owners of Akiwenzie's Fish). Andrew was asked to describe a bit about his company and the process they used. As the discussion began, it quickly became clear to the audience that Andrew & Natasha's method of fishing, preparation, smoking and selling is probably the best way to have fresh fish! Most of us will likely not go back to eating fish from other sellers again! Andrew uses the traditional methods of fishing and sells his produce at local farmer markets rather than selling his fish wholesale. This is because wholesale fish is often 'sold' for 5 days. Once the fish cannot be sold and is getting soft, they are then put into a brime. Andrew's product is extremely fresh and is sold the day after the fish is caught. If the fish is not sold that day it is immediately frozen or placed into a brime. Shawn, an architecture by trade talked about how ethnicity affects restaurant designs. He pointed out the example of Spring Rolls a pan-asian cuisine in Toronto where each and every single Spring Rolls is unique, but yet designed in such a way that you know you're in a Spring Roll. Rebecca discussed her thesis 'brain food' and how food helps children excel academically. She discussed the school lunch programs versus having lunch in a cafe. She talked about the difference between a lunch box, which is designed to equip children for the day (a sort of daily, comfort food) whereas a lunch program is often for children that need sufficient food, the right food and is a way to help educate parents. She mentioned that the ways family think about food is very different from the way a school thinks about it. Robert Wright concluded that food education involves people having a relationship with their food and to know how food is made.
During the break we were treated to range of delicious farmer's market produce (cheese), pitas, and smoked fish from the Akiwenzie's. This fish was so good, many participants had several pieces!
Finally, the last session was on Feast, Famine and other Scenarios. This last session proved to be the most lively and interesting of the sessions with Evan Fraser (professor at Guelph, author & blogger), John Knechtel (editor of Air, Water, Food, Fuel & Trash), Kathryn Scharf (program director at The Stop Community Food Centre), and Michael Wolfson (Food and Beverage Sector Specialist with the City of Toronto). Kathryn was asked how The Stop (a locally based program with its own greenhouses that serves the community with local and sustainable food in their food centre) could be replicated in various parts of the city. The panelists were asked how we could redesign the infrastructure to redesign the future. Kathryn indicated that it wasn't so much knowing the problems since we all know the list of problems with a city's infrastructure & policy. However, Kathryn said, the answer can't simply end at the farmer's markets! Since, really as great as they are, they are not a viable means to feed an entire city. "There is a lot of poetry and romance on it right now", says Scharf, "but just not enough 'science'....No one has the desire to do it". Evan Fraser reminded the audience that we need start thinking about food insurance in the likely event that the 'good years' will end. A chilling worst-case scenario Fraser said would be mass migration and and political destabilization of fragile global hotspots. He reminded all that in the end food prices are linked to everything from gas prices, to security. So, food for thought: How much food locally do we need to have in food reserve to guarantee food insurance?
All in all, there didn't seem to be too many solutions brought to the table during these sessions, but rather discussions. Hopefully these discussions will jump start the process towards change in not only the select few that are passionate and interested, but to pockets of the city, and eventually to the public.
For more information and to catch-up to the talks click the archived video feed here, the official Foodprint Toronto page with details about each speaker. Pictures of the event from Nicola Twilley can be found here (Can you find me?). Below are some pics from the Farmer's market that I snapped that morning prior to Foodprinto TO@ Wychwood Barns (from 8am -12pm).