PARC and PPE at YIMBY Festival 2013!

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PARC and its collaborative project, Parkdale People’s Economy were at the 6th annual YIMBY! Festival!

It was a great opportunity to showcase PARC’s ongoing activities as “A community where people rebuild their lives” through providing supportive housing programs, one of the largest drop-in meal programs in Toronto,  outreach programs, Ambassadors project, and many others.

PARC’s Prezi presentation

And, PPE presented its community economic development projects incubated through the combination of ongoing community initiatives in Parkdale.

Parkdale People’s Economy Prezi presentation

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Thanks to Geoff Gans, Communications Lead at PARC and Claudia Reinoza for creating the wonderful Prezis!

Co-op Cred program in action!

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Co-op cred program is a community food security accessibility tool based on an alternative currency model that facilitates low-income people’s participation in the healthy and economic benefits of local, organic, and sustainable food. Community members engage in volunteer activities at community organizations like West End Food Co-op and Greenest City and receive co-op creds in return while also enabling them to develop employment skills and accumulate additional wealth regardless of social assistance restriction. Currently, we are developing and implementing a pilot project with PARC Ambassadors program to see how this idea unfolds in practice and to gauge the possibility of expanding the program to include more community members at large.

On February 13 2013, we had the first orientation session at West End Food Coop. Sasha and Ayal from WEFC gave an orientation to 5 PARC Ambassadors who will work at the WEFC site as kitchen assistants, floor assistant, and produce assistant. The orientation covered not only what activities the PARC ambassadors will perform but also the philosophy behind the WEFC,  its programming, and its relation to the Co-op cred program.


A detailed story about the WEFC can be found in ‘About Us‘ from their website, but what sparked PARC ambassadors’ interests most was WEFC’s attempt to bridge the urban and rural as a multistakeholder co-operative whose members include eaters (consumers) producers, workers, and community partners.

The WEFC attempts to address issues of urban hunger and rural poverty together that are often debated separately. For example income is an issue for most people’s access to healthy local food in urban settings, but at the same time farmers and producers are also facing declining income challenges because of policy changes that negatively affect their farming, an unsustainable food system, and development pressures that threaten farming lands in Ontario. So, WEFC is working with farmers and local producers to pay ‘fair’ prices for their produces. But ‘fair’ prices may not be always  accessible to everyone. Here the co-op cred proram comes in as pat of strategies making local healthy food accessible to everyone.

Reflecting on their public engagement work on Edmond Place, Ambassadors were very excited about the idea behind the co-op and got very keen on supporting and spreading their activities. They hope to learn more about the co-op by directly engaging in their work, while developing public speaking and engagement skills through the Ambassadors program.


Strategic planning for Community Food Flow project

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As in the previous post, PARC, as a lead of the collaborative, has been awarded with Ontario Trillium Foundation grant for Community Food Flow project to conduct a community food assessment study with a focus on food distribution and to incubate pilot projects to create more effective and sustainable flows of healthy food to all communities.

What is unique about our food flow analysis is its focus on ‘community’ food flow – how does food get into the neighbourhood through various food distribution network? We hope to understand the complexity and opportunity of Toronto’s wider food distribution networks from a neighbourhood lens. More importantly though, this project relies on an innovative collaboration of many partners who represent a different aspect of food distribution systems in Toronto. While each will have a different degree of participation, our partners include:

  • PARC
  • Parkdale Community Health Centre
  • West End Food Coop
  • Greenest City
  • Working for Change
  • Daily Bread Food Bank
  • Second Harvest
  • North York Harvest Food Bank
  • FoodShare
  • The Stop Community Food Centre
  • Toronto Public Health’s Food Strategy
  • Shelter, Support and Housing Administration at the City of Toronto

We are very thrilled to have these amazing players together at the same table to collaboratively investigate the challenges and opportunities for rebuilding community food flows in Toronto. Such a multi-stakeholder collaboration is very powerful, but difficult to coordinate . Thus, on January 7th, we held a strategic planning session to make sure that we have common understanding of the project goal, expectation and role of partners.

There are mainly four goals in the project.

  • To increase access to healthy and nutritious food, as well as diversity in diets and outlets for affordable food through better overall control of community food flows across the city
  • To provide community capacity and resources to create a more effective distribution system while helping organizations move past the emergency food delivery stage
  • To build an increased connection between urban agriculture and food security
  • To create templates and tools that can be used for similar food assessment studies in other neighbourhoods and jurisdictions

Each participant had opportunity to consider which goals their organization see the most relevant and can contribute to achieving.

Strategic planning session was a great reminder that many opportunities can emerge if each of us collaborate by sharing and leveraging their own organizational strength – research, policy, logistics, connection with community, programming capacities, infrastructure, relationship with suppliers, and many more – with other organizations in order to address the common challenges felt differently by each. But the session also clarified further points of discussion to make the collaborative work smoothly.

Many thanks to Catalyst Centre for the facilitation lead; to Ontario Trillium Foundationfor generous financial support for the project.

Neighbourhood diversity: Implication for CLT governance

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On January 10th 2013, we hosted a community presentation by a group of students from University of Toronto who conducted a research project to investigate experiences of other Community Land Trusts as well as innovative participatory planning practices from elsewhere. The central question the group tackled is, “how can we structure a CLT to foster democratic decision-making, embody equity and ensure involvement and participation from a broad coalition of community members [in Parkdale-High Park area]?”

[PowerPoint presentation for download]
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After providing a broader context of Parkdale and the CLT initiative, the group started their presentation by illustrating a case study of a CLT from Los Angeles, T.R.U.S.T. South LA and highlighting key components of the CLT governance – membership; organizational values & principles; board of directors structure; and (modified) consensus decision-making.

This brief introduction of the South LA case was very informative for participants, because it has been a general challenge of CLT movement in the Canadian context where there is no national (and regional) network of CLTs like US and UK to share experience and expertise of other CLTs.

Based on experiences from other cities and interviews with key informants from Parkdale, the group offered key recommendations for making a CLT governance model in Parkdale democratic and equitable. While more details can be found in the full report, some key points are: the importance of value/mission statement that would guide CLT’s activities and decision-making processes; making the CLT concept concrete and exciting when engaging community members and wider allies; and the accessibility of CLT information in various formats for outreach.

Among many recommendations as well as challenges identified in the study, it is recommended to adopt a ‘1/3 governance model’ for the CLT in Parkdale.  But it has become clear that because of unique neighbourhood diversity and inclusive goals of the CLT in Parkdale, the simple transfer of the model may not be sufficient. The group mentioned that when they interviewed with representatives from other CLTs and asked about how they attempt to ensure the democratic and equitable representation, they answered that a simple 1/3 governance model is sufficient, because those neigbourhood contexts are far less diverse than Parkdale, and tend to be low-income neighbourhoods that have experienced a long period of disinvestment or that have been becoming a frontier of gentrification; in most cases, identifying beneficiaries and stakeholders of CLTs is not so much complicated.

Further, in general, the operation of CLTs requires expertise in various fields such as community development, financing, real estate, project management, municipal governance and law. This is essential but also necessitates a difficult balancing act between democratic representation by community members and expertise of “skilled members”.

The next step for us is, of course, to make the best use of this research and momentum to guide the ongoing conversation about the CLT board development while putting the recommendations into action.

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*Great thanks to a wonderful research team of Amy Bath, Daniel Girard, Sean Major, Sheraz Khan, and Stephanie Ireland from University of Toronto Planning Program, and to their project supervisors: Katharine Rankin and Charles Levkoe from University of Toronto, and Leigh McGrath from Urban Strategies, and Rob Howarth from Toronto Neighbourhood Centre; and also to Metcalf Foundation for support of CLT initiative.

Community Presentation on Democractic governance model for Parkdale’s CLT: January 10th

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A Community Land Trust is an innovative model that establishes community ownership of land and local democratic control over that land for the benefit of local community. As Parkdale has faced a number of local challenges related to land and its use – declining affordability, food insecurity, lack of community space, and limited community control over neighbourhood change, Parkdale People’s Economy / Parkdale Food Network have been exploring a possibility of establishing a CLT in Parkdale High-Park area.

A CLT can also be a vehicle to promote democratic planning decision-making over local land use because of its unique 1/3 governance model to ensure local representation from divere community stakeholders and local control. But ‘the local’ does not always mean ‘democratic’, and thus crucial questions arise: How can we ensure democratic governance and participatory processes that fairly represent and balance the diverse and conflicting interests of residents in Parkdale-High-Park area?

To tackle the complex question, a group of graduate students from University of Toronto’s Planning Program undertook a research project exploring experiences of other Community Land Trusts as well as innovative participatory planning practices from elsewhere. In this event, the group will present their findings on how other CLTs are governed in practice and offer recommendations for building an equitable and sustainable governance model for Parkdale-High-Park area. The community presentation is scheduled as follows:


Date: January 10th (Thursday)
Time: 6pm – 7:30pm
Location: PARC (1499 Queen Street West)
RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.ca/event/5023429212

After the presentation by the group of students, we hope to have community discussion to think  about how recommended strategies would work in Parkdale-High Park area.

Community Food Flow project funded by OTF

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We are thrilled to announce that PARC, as a lead organization of a collaborative grant, was awarded the grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to conduct a two-year community food assessment study “Community Food Flow” – how food gets to Toronto’s neighbourhoods, particularly to populations with food access challenges – and to incubate pilot projects to create more effective and sustainable flows of healthy food to all communities.

By developing a better understanding of existing food distribution networks, the Community Food Flow project aims to create a strong network of distributors and community members with experience in developing innovations around food distribution and addressing together problems of gaps and inefficiencies in community food flows, particularly to food insecure groups. The project explores all sources of food for food insecure groups, and will therefore be able to accurately identify the bottlenecks in the community food system.

The project uses a community food assessment approach that will rely on an innovative combination of partner collaboration and community-based research to ensure maximum participation by stakeholders most affected by food insecurity. This project unites collaborators and partners across the city and with stakeholders from production, distribution and consumption sectors to explore and improve community food flow.

From early next year, we will begin to roll out assessment in Parkdale in partnership with partners in the area. The Parkdale project will build on the existing Parkdale Food Network’ and other collaborations to depict a detailed map and assess food flows in the Parkdale area.

Report back – Dec 3rd PFN Community Forum

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On December 3rd 2012, Parkdale Food Network held its community forum to (re)engage PFN members and reflect on its current activities – bulk-buying/Neighbourhood food distribution; community land trust; and community engagement. Also the event welcomed the guests from Start Me Up Niagara, St. Catharines, too.

The event began with the introduction by Ayal Dinner from West End Food Co-op, one of the founding members of PFN. He provided a brief background of the network, introduced a wide range of members, and outlined the key goals for the event. He went on to give a quick ‘tour’ of a newly opened community food hub, West End Food Co-op. WEFC itself was established a couple of years ago, and since then, it has operated a successful Sorauren Farmers’ Market and has organized a number of food-related workshops. In October 2012, WEFC opened a long-awaited co-op retail store on 1299 Queen St West in the basement of Parkdale Community Health Centre. It is our community hope that this physical space becomes a hub for community food activities and learning opportunities. This December 3rd event was the very first community event held at such a community food hub. The introduction presentation is available here for download. For more information about WEFC, please visit the website and their store!

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The exciting introduction was followed by updates from each subcommittee. (To download PowerPoint presentations from each, please hit the subtitle)

1. Bulk-buying/Neighbourhood Food Distribution 
This subcommittee came out of a common concern among many non-profit organizations providing food programs: only donation cannot keep up with increasing needs for community food programs, but purchasing by individual organizations on their own may not make good economic sense due to inefficiencies and higher costs. With this, the subcommittee has worked to explore the possibility of bulk-buying key food items and neigbourhood-based food distribution network. After conducting agency survey and exploring some possible pilot items, the subcommittee has picked up “coffee” as the first pilot product for bulk-buying, as coffee is an item that many organizations purchase and consume a lot. Through planning the pilot, the subcommittee encountered multi-faceted and interconnected challenges of item, transportation, delivery, storage, payment, and financial model etc; the conflict between hope for ethical consumption and need for cost-saving;  and the complexity of logistics and administration. Despite such challenges, the subcommittee has been addressing one by one and will be ready to roll out a pilot project early next year. Also the work that has been done will contribute to a foundational stage of two-year research project, Community Food Flow study, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

2. Community Land Trust
Community Land Trust subcommittee worked on three key activities: Community mapping; building a transitional board of directors; and research on democratic governance model for Parkdale CLT. Please see the previous entries for all the maps the group has created so far such as change in the number of rooming/boarding homes, change in commercial property value of Queen St West, or overall land use map of Parkdale.

The transitional board of directors  has been almost formed. For this transitional board, board of directors are made up of key organizations and individuals who represent diverse community members in Parkdale. Those organizations that have agreed to sit on the first board are (as of December 7th 2012):

  • PARC
  • Greenest City
  • West End Food Co-op
  • Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association
  • Kathy Allan (Development Consultant)
  • St. Christopher House
  • Parkdale Village BIA
  • Parkdale Community Legal Services
  • Sistering

This board will work together along with subcommittee members until the PCLT makes a shift to a membership-based model. An appropriate membership and governance model for Parkdale CLT has been researched by a group of students from University of Toronto Planning Program. The group has completed its final report, which will be posted to the website soon. The group will present their finding and recommendations to Parkdale community members in early January.

3. Community Engagement
This subcommittee is new. This came out of ongoing activities in partnership with Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks. Over the summer, the group has organized three workshops on civic literacy at PARC, Greenest City, and Parkdale Community Health Centre (please see the past entries). Among many concerns and challenges, participants felt that there is lack of ongoing opportunities for them to get involved in food education, to support their engagement in policy making and local politics, and to be informed about what is happening in the neighbourhood. Also participants expressed their strong interest in learning skills and knowledge about healthy food and urban agriculture. To keep the momentum going and engagement activities sustainable, this subcommittee was launched.

The presentation was centred around quick report back on these three workshops, goals of the subcommittee and key activities for next couple of months. One of such activities is to support community members in making a deputation on the proposed city budget 2013. It is likely that the proposed cutbacks in housing service and community grants, if approved, would have severe impact on food security among Parkdale community. Public hearings, where people can make a deputation, are scheduled on December 10th and 11th.

*Thanks to Maytree Foundation and Metcalf Foundation for generous support that made this event possible, and to West End Food Co-op for providing space and great lunch, and to all PFN steering committee for planning and organizing the event.

Map 5: North Parkdale’s use of land

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A while ago, we presented how land is used in South Parkdale. This time is North Parkdale. How land is used in North Parkdale shows a very interesting contract to its South Parkdale.

Unlike South Parkdale, property sizes are generally a lot smaller; land use is predominantly low-rise single house. This may not come as a surprise. What is interesting, however, is that all 14 TCH stand-alone properties in Ward 14 concentrate – and scattered around – in North Parkdale (highlighted as red), while South Parkdale has concentration of high-rise TCH buildings. Further, there are obviously four abandoned – boarded-up – houses sitting in the north (as highlighted as yellow). Additionally, there are many places of worship (highlighted as purple).

To far lesser extent than South Parkdale, there are still dozens of rooming/boarding homes, although they tend to concentrate close to Queen Street West.

And here is a Parkdale wide map.

These are the last maps from the first phase of our community mapping exercise that largely explored changes in residential dynamics in Parkdale. We are planning the next phase of mapping now.

*Great thanks  to Sean Major, Daniel Girad, Stephanie Ireland, and Derek Bundle for conducting field surveys and providing research support, and to City’s Affordable Housing Office and Gord Perks Office for providing resources and advice.

Restaurant Study – Parkdale Community Consultation Meeting

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As most of you are aware, Interim Control By-Law to prohibit new restaurants and second floor expansion for one year on Queen Street West between Roncesvalles Ave and Dufferin St (Parkdale BIA area) was introduced on October 26, 2012 (link to the city council page). (and also see Inside Toronto article on this topic).

Over the past few years, Parkdale area has seen rapid commercial change – emergence of new restaurants and bars – that have resulted in “land use conflicts with the adjacent residential area and other business owners” such as noise, vandalism, garbage, late night activity and parking congestion. The same Interim Control Bylaw was put in place before in Ossington area. Also, the city has been conducting a Restaurant  and Bar study to respond to these concerns since summer 2010.

Taken together, the city is holding a community consultation meeting as follows to inform city’s direction and study recommendations. This study and interim bylaw are a response to aforementioned “land use conflicts”, while paying limited attention to the impacts on food accessibility and affordability for community members, and businesses providing affordable essential services and products to wider community members. Yet, this may be an opportunity to have your voice heard.

December 3rd: PFN Community Forum

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Since its official start, PFN has been working on three initiatives: neighbourhood-based food procurement/distribution (Bulk-buying); Community Land Trust; and Civic Engagement with Maytree Foundation. What have we done? What are some of the key outcomes? What have we learned from action? Where do we want to go from here? How can each of us collaborate better?

This PFN forum is set to stimulate such community conversation. Each PFN working group will share their experience and project updates, exchange ideas, and receive feedback for improvement. Further, many innovative community initiatives have been launched in Parkdale in 2012. This forum is also an opportunity to share these initiatives.

We are very excited to hold this event at the newly opened community food hub, West End Food Co-op! On the event date, you will get exposed to this innovative community initiative in action that makes healthy and local food accessible to all community members.

Details

Date: December 3rd Monday
Time: 10:30 am – 2 pm  Location: West End Food Coop @ 1229 Queen St W
Light lunch will be served– please RSVP at here!