Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Oct04

Toronto Declaration Calls on City Leaders to Get Growing

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By Charlotte Litjens

At an urban agriculture summit in Toronto this August, a diverse group of advocates produced the world’s first declaration for integrating food production into the urban environment: the Toronto Declaration. Calling for “good food, green buildings, and great cities growing together,” the declaration not only proclaims the intentions of summit-goers from around the world, but also passionately calls upon city officials and others to join them in action to make agriculture a legitimate part of urban development.

The Toronto Declaration calls for “good food, green buildings, and great cities growing together” (Photo credit: FoodShare Toronto)

“Too many governments still divide and separate food, water, shelter, health, energy, education, waste, transit, community, and economics,” the declaration reads. The document explained that when cities are developing their infrastructure, they need to engineer more creative space for growing food. By creating space for agriculture within green buildings and urban landscaping, city dwellers will benefit from both an enhanced quality of life and food security. Not only is food produced in urban agriculture-scapes, but these green spaces also provide what economists call “ecosystem services,” which include the absorption of greenhouse gases and support for species like honeybees and other pollinators. The declaration also discusses the potential of urban agriculture to create jobs, educate youth, improve public health, and empower communities.

To promote this “growth industry of the future,” the declaration proposes several action items for cities, which include the following:

  1. Official food charters, plans and food policy councils;
  2. Urban agriculture offices within local and regional governments;
  3. Green roof laws and codes;
  4. Government support for food-producing buildings and landscapes;
  5. Scaling-up of nutrient recycling from waste streams;
  6. Provide food-based curriculum to all youth.

These actions items were developed during the closing plenary session of the Urban Agriculture Summit on August 19 of this year, which welcomed participants from around the world and featured Growing Power’s Will Allen, Nourishing the Planet columnist and urban agriculture expert Wayne Roberts, and Luc Mugeot from The International Development Research Center. The Declaration’s authors include representatives from the meal-providing NGO Foodshare, the Toronto Food Policy Council, Ryerson University, and Roberts.

How can we advance the action plan of the Toronto Declaration in cities around the world? Is it already taking place in some cities?

Charlotte Litjens is a Food and Agriculture Research Intern with The Worldwatch Institute.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

May27

In Canada, New Innovation Helps Nourish the Needy

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By Graham Salinger

With more people living in cities than ever before—the United Nations projects that up to 65 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050—cities are relying on a number of innovations to boost food security. Meanwhile, the price of food in urban areas remains higher than that of rural areas. With food purchases taking up to 80 percent of a typical urban family’s income, the need for sustainable urban agriculture is clear. In the wake of recent shocks to food prices and the current economic downturns, urban dwellers are finding it harder and harder to find affordable, healthy food.

A patron purchases some fresh fruit from a Fruixi cart. (Photo credit: fruixi.com)

In Montreal, Canada, a pilot program is underway to bring healthy vegetables and fruits to downtown residents. This summer, small carts called Fruixi  are delivering locally grown produce to people who lack access to grocery stores. The carts, which are mounted on three-wheeled bikes, were developed by Université de Montréal student Guillaume Darnajou. Six of the Fruixi carts deliver food to parks in Ville-Marie and Plateau Mont-Royal, areas in which residents may otherwise not be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables. The carts will also visit three hospitals – Hôtel-Dieu, Saint-Luc and Notre-Dame.

This innovation underscores the role that increased vegetable production should play in food security. Vitamin-rich vegetables are an important part of a diet, especially for the undernourished. They are also easier to produce than staple crops. Small-scale farmers can also make more money growing vegetables than other crops, demonstrating that local food movements, like the ones encouraged by the Fruixis program, also help to stimulate  local economies.

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Feb25

Canadian Research Center Helps Fund Projects Addressing Global Food Security

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By Graham Salinger

In many developing countries, poor people spend more than half their income on food, but many of them are not getting enough nutrients to stay healthy. The International Development Research Center (IDRC) is working to change that problem. Founded by an act of Canadian Parliament in 1970, IDRC works with research institutions and universities to advance the well being of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. IDRC has provided CA$2.8 billion in grants since its founding with a focus on agricultural programs that increase food security in the developing world and grow local rural and urban economies. Research funded by IDRC is helping find ways to help small-scale farmers deal with shocks to food prices and utilize technologies to enhance agricultural productivity.

A woman and dairy goat in Kibosho, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Erwin Kinsey, LEISA Magazine)

In 2011, IDRC funded long term agricultural projects to help farmers deal with economic pressures and increased threats posed by climate change. In Kenya, IDRC funding has allowed researchers at McGill University and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute to identify and develop appropriate and durable farming techniques for dryland agriculture while increasing access to markets for Kenyan farmers.

In the Dodoma and Morogoro regions of Tanzania, IDRC is funding research that will help increase goat milk and meat production. The research, conducted by the University of Alberta and The Sokoine University of Agriculture, will test and analyze improved cassava and sweet potato varieties as part of a feeding strategy for dairy goats and efforts to strengthen food production. This research highlights the importance of livestock production in the region.  Goats rank second to cattle in the contribution of livestock to income and human nutrition, and 90 percent of rural households in Tanzania keep livestock.

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Jan10

Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

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By Graham Salinger

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of edible food is thrown away by retailers and households. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tons of food is wasted by households each year. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.

Food waste remains a large factor contributing to food insecurity around the world, but consumers can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. (Photo credit: Back to the Garden Inc)

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways that consumers can help prevent food waste.

1. Compost: In addition to contributing to food insecurity, food waste is harmful to the environment. Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient rich organic fertilizer for gardening.

Compost in Action: In Denver, the city contracts with A1 Organics, a local organic recycling business, to take people’s waste and turn it into compost for local farmers. Similarly, a new pilot program in New York City allows patrons to donate food scraps to a composting company that gives the compost to local farmers.

2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.

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Nov15

Simple Lifestyle Changes can Reduce Food Waste

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Nourishing the Planet’s op-ed on food waste was recently published in Canada’s Calgary Herald.

Image credit: Calgary Herald

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food annually. But there are easy–and inexpensive–ways to reduce food waste, including composting, recycling, and donating excess food to those in need.

Click here to read the full article.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Sep28

Citywatch: The Taste of Cohesion

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. 

My first memory is of Riverdale Park near downtown Toronto. My grandpa spent the day with me there on September 26 many years ago, while my parents were at the hospital bringing my new baby sister into the world.

Photo credit: www.wayneroberts.ca

Though the park was only a block away from our apartment, it was a big outing for me—a special treat that told me I was still special and that there was still more than enough love to go around for me, and plenty of people and places to share it.  I was only four years old, but how can anyone forget a whole day with a grandpa in a lovely little corner park that was part zoo and part farm, and had all sorts of animals to pet and snuggle up to. A kid’s version of a place of one’s own, evocative hideaway central to what Gary Paul Nabhan calls The Geography of Childhood.

I wonder if that glistening memory of special people and places that were there for me on a big day prepared me many decades later to hear a new word that may well freshen up our understanding of cities in this century – not just as centers of crowds, excitement, entertainment, or business opportunity, but centers of cohesion, perhaps environmental as well as social cohesion.

Food planning can play a lead role in ensuring that food provides what’s needed to stick to the ribs of city cohesion. The historic neighborhood surrounding Riverdale Park is known as Cabbagetown, a reminder that locals once used their backyards to grow their own food, and the park has blossomed into a food-centered place where organic farmers markets and open air baking ovens match the century-old farm theme. It’s become what planners call “a third place,” the runner up just behind home and workplace where people like to “hang” during some free time – a concept I usually explain as being something like the old hit TV series, Cheers.

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Sep21

Citywatch: What’s not infrastructure about social and environmental infrastructure?

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. 

Economic geeks tell a joke about Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates that goes a long way to explaining why so many cities face a budgetary crisis that can result in serious tears in the city’s social fabric while undermining its ability to invest in projects that beautify and restore the environment.

Photo credit: www.wayneroberts.ca

Gates was crossing a border point, the joke goes, when a customs officer pointed to his suitcase and asked if Gates had anything to declare.  Gates said no.

True economics geeks don’t need more of a punch line. The joke is on an obsolete system of counting valuables, which fails to take account of the fact that economic value is no longer measured by things that can be transported in boats, cars and planes. The wealth-creating ideas, talents, and assets valued in today’s economy travel inside heads.

It’s not just customs officers who didn’t get the memo about the seismic shift to a creative knowledge and information economy. Accountants and statisticians weren’t in the loop either. As a result, an enormous accounting ledger error is at the bottom of much of the mayhem that cities now confront as they face prospects of major budget cuts to social and environmental programs.

Former Toronto budget chief Shelley Carroll, a leading promoter of local and sustainable food programs in the city, thinks the bean-counting mentality behind many of those pushing budget-balancing -at-any- price is wrong on two counts.

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Sep17

Canadian Parks to Integrate Farming

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By Kamaria Greenfield

Forestry and agriculture were once seen as two mutually exclusive functions of land, with the presence of one meaning the total absence of the other. Ecologists saw the development and cultivation of farmland as a force working against their attempts to preserve valuable tracts of untouched land.

For a century, Canada's national and provincial parks have had untapped potential for small-scale agriculture. (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

But now, in many of Canada’s national and provincial parks, specialists are realizing that small-scale agriculture and forestry can exist side by side—and that they may even benefit from one another. Forests help protect crops from pest infestations and the spread of airborne plant diseases. In turn, agriculture helps contribute to forests’ sustainability by providing food for nearby populations. This is especially true for forests located on the outskirts of urban areas, where locally grown food can be brought to market with very low transportation costs.

Parks Canada, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, has decided to convert Rouge Park into an urban national park. It will cover 4,700 hectares of land, stretching from Lake Ontario in the south to two towns nearly 35 kilometers north. One thousand  hectares of this has been set aside for agriculture, according to Alan Wells, chair of the Rouge Park Alliance. Of particular importance, this area is just northeast of the Greater Toronto region, making it an ideal choice for farmers who want to help feed the city.

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Sep07

Citywatch: Quebec City uses food as pioneer species of urban revival

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. 

By sheer luck, our family stumbled on a little-known urban success story while looking for a place to crash in Quebec City that offered direct access to the throughway to northern Quebec, where our daughter was going to learn French.

Photo credit: www.wayneroberts.ca

Right next to Quebec City’s famous central core, preserved as a walled monument of an old world French fortress city of the 1700s, the past snuggles up to the future arising from the former slums of the Saint Roch quarter below the hilled fortress, where generations of factory workers lived until their industries crashed during the 1980s and ‘90s.

I’ve long felt that Quebec deserves to be known as one of the world’s best examples of an oppressed minority – commonly referred to as “pepsi’s” and “French Niggers of North America” as recently as the 1960s – who’ve made it economically while enriching their traditional culture and distinctive identity. My chance overnight stay gave me a glimpse of the secret formula behind this success. Ironically, it’s very close to the strategy proposed in Jeb Brugmannn’s recent book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution, arguably one of the most important studies of city possibilities since Jane Jacobs.

Those running as or voting for candidates in municipal elections across Ontario this fall might want to consider ways of translating Quebec’s success here.

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Jul27

Citywatch: Food loops and food loopholes: What cities can learn about food purchasing from mis-steps of an early mover

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city.

On July 12, Toronto City Council voted overwhelmingly to advise companies bidding for the city’s $11 million a year in food contracts that “it is a policy objective of the City to increase the percentage of food that is grown locally when all factors, including costs, quality and availability are equal.”

Photo credit: www.wayneroberts.ca

The motion was hailed as a modest victory by the local food movement. It deserves some kind of international award for absolutely unenforceable gibberish.

Let me count the loopholes and weasel words: a policy objective, instead of the policy; “increase the percentage” (now probably about 10) instead of identifying a specific target reached over time; food instead of food and beverage; local, as long as “all factors…are equal,” as defined and decided by??? –no-one in particular.

This is Toronto, the city that works — even when a mayor is extremely conservative, as now, or quite progressive, as is usual. One reason Toronto council works is that long-term working relationships matter as much as specific outcomes, which means that people who engage are usually allowed to save a little face and find a little ray of hope or foothold to carry on.  Whether a motion is seen as meaningful or meaningless depends entirely on perspective.

The meaningful or meaningless motion on local food follows almost four years of efforts – some of them mine, when I was a City employee — to put Toronto at the forefront of world cities striving to reduce global warming emissions by, among many other things, purchasing local and sustainable food.

There is no shame in making mistakes while aiming high. Innovators, like all infants, learn to walk by falling. Indeed, the real point of going first is to make a gift of lessons to others. We all share the same air, climate and planet, and we may as well share lessons in keeping it safe and sound.

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