A new food sovereignty plan is being finalized in Toronto’s University District.
“Black Food is culture, politics, heritage, ideas, history and ideas about how food is an important part of our community,” said Nighat Madasiw, a community activist working on the plan. “So if you’re in Toronto and you buy a one-pound of produce or a pound of meat, it’ll be by black farmers or by black ranchers.”
The plan to create Black food sovereignty in Toronto is not a response to the city’s growing population of racialized populations, Madasiw said. Rather, it was created to create a space for new, sustainable food community groups.
“We’re just calling for a new level of town planning and we’re very adamant about black folks needing to be part of that planning and having their stories and narratives involved,” Madasiw said.
She added: “We’re not talking about needing to get rid of people who are brown, black, Muslim, Jewish, white, so we’re just saying it’s important that all the people come together and be a part of the planning process.”
Under the new plan, organizations will be grouped according to criteria such as the people involved, size and age range of the food enterprise, and type of product sold.
The market would also be open year-round to be able to serve all those involved in making the food.
Madasiw said: “It’s not going to be like a women’s cooperative, where women own their own business or a kids’ food co-op where you would open your own children’s business. It’s just going to be, people will come together as a community and … everybody’s voice will be heard.”
She continued: “So, if you’re a farmer out in Kettle Moraine, if you’ve got a pig farm in Toronto, if you produce vegetables for your family, you’re going to come together, because we have the same needs and we share the same kind of hope that can be unique and special and fantastic as well.”
The Black Food Movement has grown over the past decade, said Tahya Dorah, a food production and education specialist at Toronto’s FarmAtHome program. In 2017, the group held a community forum in Toronto with participants like chefs, business owners, educators and others.
Dorah explained: “They get to collaborate, work together, it gives them a sense of pride, knowing that they’re building their own economies.”
Some organizations in Toronto are already recognizing this and investing in similar programs. Dorah cited a Detroit home-grown company that markets seasonal products grown by participants in FarmAtHome programs as an example.
“We just want people to feel empowered and have resources,” she said. “We’re trying to expand that kind of thinking outside of food to enter into different types of products so people feel like this is a system of opportunities, not just through food.”
Madasiw said the goal is to prevent another wave of rioting seen in the Ontario city, where young, black males were among the people targeted by rioters in the summer of 2014.
“It is a pattern,” she said. “The community is tired of dealing with the effects of colonialism and slavery. This is a lot of moving parts to not just running a food movement, but it’s having the spaces to sit down and figure out a way to heal community issues. So we want this to be healthy for the city and healthy for people.”