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June 12, 2000
100 community gardens, 650,000 charitable meals not enough, says Action Committee report
The Food and Hunger Action Committee's Phase 1 report finds that even though
many initiatives are working well, much more needs to be done to alleviate a
growing food crisis in the city. The report, titled "Planting the Seeds,"
consolidates findings from a series of community consultations, includes an
inventory of food and hunger initiatives that the City of Toronto is involved
in, and makes some key recommendations on the next steps to take to ensure that
every Toronto citizen has safe, nutritious, affordable and appropriate food.

The report found that while Toronto has hundreds of food programs and
initiatives, there is little consistency among programs and no overall
coordination. As well, the location of all of the initiatives does not
necessarily reflect where the need is. "For example," said Councillor Irene
Jones (Lakeshore- Queens way), "suburban areas have the downtown need without
the downtown services. We want to make sure there is access to healthy food
across the entire city and that services are linked in an unbroken network."

The report also notes that reductions in income combined with rising living
costs have left many people unable to both pay their rent and feed their
families. In 1995, the average food bank user had $7.40 per day to spend on
needs other than rent. Today, this amount has been reduced to $4.95 per day --
which sometimes leads to a choice between hunger and homelessness.

The Action Committee also found that poor nutrition is a problem that affects
Torontonians in all income groups. The most important priorities for
nutritional health are infants, children and pregnant women. Every year 10,000
low-income women in Toronto become pregnant, and every year 2,000 babies are
born in Toronto with low birth weights.

The Committee recognizes that food is an essential part of Toronto's economy.
One in 10 people in our city works in the food sector, and the city has 100
community gardens. But Toronto is behind many other North American cities in
capitalizing on the benefits of urban agriculture. The Committee estimates that
one quarter of Toronto's produce could be grown within or close to the city.

"Planting the Seeds" marks the conclusion of the Food and Hunger Action
Committee's Phase 1 activities. The next step is to create longer-term
solutions. "While there are already a great number of inspiring initiatives and
volunteers working hard to alleviate hunger and promote nutrition in Toronto, I
believe that this report will be the catalyst we need to implement meaningful
and permanent solutions to the growing food crisis in our city," said
Councillor Jane Pitfield (East York).

Report recommendations include:
  • endorsing the principle that all people in Toronto should have an adequate supply of safe, nutritious, affordable and appropriate food
  • promoting the City of Toronto's role in advocating, coordinating and supporting measures to ensure food security in Toronto
  • developing a Food Charter for the City of Toronto
  • developing a food and hunger action plan
  • identifying priority initiatives for the 2001 budget process
  • reporting back to the new City Council with the Food Charter and the action plan by February 2001.

The Food and Hunger Action Committee was struck by City Council in December
1999 with a mandate to improve food security and access to nutritious food, and
to reduce hunger in Toronto. The Committee toured the city to learn first-hand
about food and hunger issues directly from program users, providers and experts
in the field.

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