Report Back: 2nd PFN and Maytree Building Blocks workshop at Greenest City

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Parkdale Food Network organized its 2nd workshop on civic engagement and food security as part of Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks. This is a report-back by Terence Williams, Community Leader of Maytree civic engagement training.

On Monday afternoon on August 21 Parkdale Food Network in partnership with Maytree Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada held its second civic engagement training workshop with Greenest City in the Youth Garden in Parkdale. As the Greenest City was a partner for this workshop, our specific focus was on urban agriculture.

PARC’s Executive Director, Victor Willis, gave an introduction to those participants that came together sitting on benches and tree stumps. He spoke about the food initiatives that the Parkdale Food Network has been leading in the Parkdale community and how these initiatives could assist with the access, availability and affordability of healthy food for all people living in the Parkdale neighbourhood.  He then handed the group over to Terence Williams.

Terence then proceeded to facilitate the civic engagement training for the community members, giving a good overview of the different levels of government in Canada, and explaining their makeup and how all three levels of government function, including their areas of responsibility.

After a brief break for refreshments, Joel Fridman, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, then did an excellent and well received presentation on food security. The group participants then took part in a discussion of what had been presented around issues of food security and what could be done to engage and work with the government.  We had the discussion in an intimate way with the participants sitting in a circle in a lovely open community garden setting. One participant reiterated a statement made by Terence during the session: “We need to speak as One Voice”.

A couple of other topics came up in the training. Victor Willis asked if there was a government ministry of food (there is a Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs at the provincial level – Ontario and a Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food at the federal level – Canada). The issue of GMOs (genetically modified food) was brought to the conversation as well as using land and crops for bio-fuel.  Most of all there was discussion on the possibilities of urban agriculture in the city, where what, and how it could proceed, done, and maintained and the benefits accruing from it for its inhabitants and the environment.

PARC would like to thank Greenest City for hosting the Maytree Civic Engagement Training in its Youth Garden within the Community Garden in Parkdale. What better way to present and hold a session on food security and civic governance than in a garden vibrant and full of leafy vegetation, just like the Agora (gathering place/place of assembly) in the Ancient Greek City States. Food for thought, the spirit, and the body, all in a garden.

Bike-a-thon 2012: Ride 4 Real Food 4 All

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September 16 Sunday, West End Food Co-op together with PARC is organizing their 2nd Bike-a-thon 2012 that will take riders from the City to the Farm, gathering pledges along the way to raise funds. Raised funds will contribute to WEFC and PARC’s food programing and to make healthy foods more accessible to everyone. 

For this year, the funds will go specifically to the PARC Coop Cred program, or a food security accessibility tool created in partnership with the West End Food Coop so that PARC members can participate in the health benefits of local, organic sustainable food.

Details about Bike-a-thon 2012 and registration is here.

New CRA Guidline has a CLT section

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As community economic development groups have responded (such as Centre for Social Innovation), Canada Revenue Agency recently released the new guideline for Community Economic Development activities in relation to charitable status (see the guideline from here).

As BC Centre for Social Enterpise points out, the previous guideline only dealt with Community Land Trust as a postscript. Often time, the CLT’s applications for the charitable status were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But the recent guideline has its separate section about CLT (two paragraphs).

Report Back: 1st PFN and Maytree Building Blocks workshop at PARC

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On July 23, in partnership with Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks, Parkdale Food Network and PARC hosted an event on civic engagement and food security. This event brought together community members largely from PARC and representatives from all three levels of government representative offices for Parkdale-HighPark (City Councilor Gord Perks, MPP Cheri DiNovo, and MP Peggy Nash). The event provided opportunities for people to learn fundamentals of governments and policy issues related to food (in)security while identifying opportunities for neighbourhood improvement.

Terence Williams from PARC, who is trained as Maytree’s community leader,  shared the key information and knowledge about how governments make decisions – civic literacy– with community members. For most of community members, complicated processes of policy making are sometimes a barrier to their participation. Unpacking this complexity was a central purpose of Terence’s presentation. His presentation covered the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government, the policy development process, and the key tactics for influencing policy making processes. The presentation can be downloaded from here.

A key goal of this Building Blocks initiative is “connecting civic participation with the goal of reducing inequality”. For Parkdale, one of such key issues related to inequality is food insecurity.

To bridge civic literacy with food insecurity, Joel Fridman, a graduate student from Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, discussed food system and key policy issues that affect the access and affordability of healthy food in Parkdale. These issues include: non-food related policy issues – housing and income support – are increasingly affecting people’s abilities to access healthy food; Nutritious Food Basket is updated occasionally, but it is not factored into setting up social assistance rates; and almost 78% of the retail market is controlled by the three large private companies, where we often do local food shopping. 

Taken together, two presentations helped the participants connect policy issues with their day-to-day experience. Why is Nutritious Food Basket   disconnected with how social assistance rates are set up (also see the city’s report)? Current social assistance rates are not keeping pace with increasing costs of food as well as housing: a key concern raised by the participants. This concern was connected back with the presentations by Terence and Joel. The rates for social assistant programs – Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program – are set up by the provincial government. Further, housing is also a key responsibility for the provincial government. To bring provincial government’s attention, participants were encouraged to use tactics they have learned from the event such as writing a letter to MPP and Ministry offices; participating ongoing networks and campaigns like Put Food in the Budget campaign. Also, one participant shared a creative response: “how to make a healthy meal on a limited budget”, which is Facebook page where people share receipts with limited budget.  

The community discussion stimulated some of the strategies that we can do to make changes happen in the neighbourhood. For example, various community food programs are available in Parkdale, but there is no mechanism for sharing program information – when, where, and what time. As a result, community members have to always look up information by themselves; community program coordinators have to respond to unexpected changes because some programs may close temporarily for some reason. This gap may be what Parkdale Food Network may be able to fill by creating a website where community members can find up-to-date information about each program.   

Another strategy is promoting urban agriculture as one way to increase neighbourhood-based food accessibility from the production perspective. A challenge is, however, how to secure a land for urban agriculture as there may be limited opportunities in Parkdale.  Yet, some opportunities are coming. The Toronto Food Policy Council will launch the Toronto Urban Agriculture Action Plan that identifies available public lands in the city and promotes their use for urban agriculture. The plan will be officially launched at the Urban Agriculture Summit, where practitioners and community groups both from Toronto and elsewhere come to share innovative urban agriculture strategies.  In addition, Parkdale Food Network/Parkdale People Economy project’s Community Land Trust group is undertaking a community mapping exercise to identify possible land and properties for community use including urban agriculture.

Victor Willis, Executive Director of PARC, concluded the session with an announcement that we will have the second meeting with Greenest City on August 21 (the third meeting is still TBD). Victor called for participants to come back in September after we finish all three community events; PFN will host an event to preset what we hear from community members through these three events. This event will be a unique opportunity to solidify ongoing food security activities by Parkdale Food Network while identifying key issues for policy advocacy.

*Many thanks to all of people and partners who made this first event great: PARC Kitchen, Drop-in and maintenance staff for accommodating this event; Brendon Goodmurphy from City of Toronto’s Toronto Food Strategy and Sara Corey  from Toronto Food Policy Council for providing invaluable assistance; and generous support from Maytree Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

WEFC’s Food Hub Open House

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West End Food Co-op has been working toward opening up a community food hub in Parkdale – coop store and community kitchen in the ground level of Parkdale Community Health Centre. This Saturday July 21st, WEFC is hosting a Open House of this exciting community hub that is opening soon!

Date: July 21st (Sat), 2012
Time: 12pm-4pm
Place: 1229 Queen St West


Reporting back from April 3rd Parkdale CLT meeting

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On April 3rd, 2012, our first community meeting on “Parkdale Community Land Trust” brought together a wide range of participants: Parkdale residents, academic, city staff, community advocates, researchers and other passionate individuals. The meeting was to ‘kick start’ a community dialogue to envision, discuss and plan an alternative strategy and possibilities for action.

The meeting began with introduction from PARC’s Executive Director, Victor Willis. Victor put the event in a broader context of ongoing community planning efforts in Parkdale, particularly addressing food insecurity.

Photo 1: A wide range of participants interested in a possibility of CLT  

After the exciting introductory remarks, Brendon Goodmurphy gave a presentation to explain why CLT can be an effective response to challenges facing Parkdale – lack of affordable housing, community space and supports for small business – and how “community ownership of land” can enhance community development efforts.

Photo 2: Susannah presenting interesting CLT cases from other cities

This was followed by Susannah Bunce, Assistant Professor at University of Torontoresearching community land trusts both in Canada and internationally. She, with her research assistant, presented different cases from other cities (from Calgary, Boston, and London UK). Her comparative research findings provided us with the opportunity to think of implications and possible challenges in establishing a community land trust in Parkdale.

These two presentations provided a broader context in considering a possibility of CLT in Parkdale. This was followed by the community discussion facilitated by Kathy Allan to discuss how we want to leverage a CLT mechanism to address challenges in Parkdale  while clarifying some of the questions participants came up with.

Photo 3: Some ideas generated through the conversations

Here is a great summary of the event from Inside Toronto: “Conversation begins for Parkdale community land trust

Link to the presentation by Brendon:Parkdale CLT Presentation (April 3, 2012)

Link to the presentation by Susannah: Urban Community Land Trust: Case Studies from Boston, Calgary & London

We will soon follow up with participants in the event and those who wanted to participate but could not make it. We are also hoping to hold another community meeting soon, while we are working to identify a couple of models appropriate to community land trust in Parkdale. Community land trust take different models in practice, particularly in terms of governance structure. What governance models would be suitable for Parkdale? Who should be involved? What expertise and resources do we need? These would be the focus of our next meeting.

Also, we have Facebook page now!

April 3rd: Parkdale Community Land Trust Community Meeting

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Come to PARC and join us for an exploration of a variety of questions about land trusts: What is an urban land trust? Who can it serve? Where could a land trust be used?

– Date: April 3rd, 2012 (Tuesday)
– Time: 4pm-6pm
– Location: PARC, 1499 Queen St West
– Please read a report on Community Land Trust

===== The Agenda==========

1. Introduction by Victor Willis, Executive Director of PARC

2. Presentation: Why CLT in Parkdale? What is “community ownership of land”?
By Brendon Goodmurphy

3. Presentation: Case Studies from Calgary, Boston, and London (UK)
by Susannah Bunce, Assistant Professor at University of Toronto

4. Facilitated Discussion: How can we apply a CLT model to Parkdale?
by Kathy Allan

5. Wrap-up / Next Steps

The Parkdale People’s Economy Project

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The Parkdale People’s Economy Project is an ongoing collaboration among various community organizations to build a resilient local economy that provides access to affordable housing, healthy food and good jobs in Parkdale, Toronto.