Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The politics of food and 2006 Stats Canada Census data for Toronto

The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as 'persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.' data source

Toronto has reached a new era of multi-culturalism.

Us Torontonians are living in a city with no clear majority of race, colour, or creed.

This is a unique time and place to live on this globe.

Why post this on a food blog?

As it turns out, the politics of food in the city has become a hot topic. I attended a forum on this exact topic in the fall (audio download available here).

An eloquent farmer (wearing a bright "Farmers Feed Cities" button) got up during the question and answer period and asked us all to consider why G8 countries obey very strict laws regarding importing cheaper goods into developing countries that can't grow or produce the same goods as cheaply as wealthy developed nations YET our very own country allows cheap imported food to undercut locally grown food at alarming and growing levels (most of Toronto's food is imported from outside of province and outside of the country - this has changed drastically in the last 20 years). He mentioned strawberries from California as the perfect example.

Part of the wide scale change in Toronto's food markets has come about because of what I have displayed above using today's freshly released 2006 census data and google's funky new chart creator.

A city of immigrants wants a taste of their homeland and they have every right to demand it from the market. But what we don't have at the moment is the ability for Ontario to provide the raw food for the myriad of diets that the city of Toronto currently has. Rice is just one small example of a food that is in huge demand in our city yet Ontario is not able to grow this staple.

There are foods that Ontario could grow but Canada does not provide immigrants with support to choose farming in their new land. Our immigrant approval process actively discourages applications from foreign farmers.

So we have white Caucasians choosing what to grow in what little farmland is to be had around Toronto (and Ontario) so the dietary needs of most new immigrants can not be supplied with locally grown food.

This imbalance has resulted in a form of food terrorism. Immigrants are forced to buy imported goods in various markets booming around the city. Any change or threat to this food supply will lead to a large scale disaster of a gastric nature.

And considering that most of us Torontonians (visible minority or not) consume foreign grown food daily...this food terrorism situation applies to us all.

That is why I belong to a food co-op. Increasing and maintaining active alliances with local farmers is something I hope to formalize at the co-op during my term on our board of directors. Food security is a real issue. For all of us. Everywhere.


mdmhvonpa said...

"An eloquent farmer ..."

As a son of a farmer (I'm a Minnesota Son), ppl are a bit surprised that we folk have anything but dirt between our ears.

Orla Hegarty said...

mdmhvonpa: Oh my.

The farmer I mentioned was eloquent in that he managed to convey some very complex ideas in a very short period of time to a very large group of people (1000+). A skilled orator would have difficulty with this task. I believe he might have been a spokesman for Farmers Feed Cities - or had been.

The fact that his words are what I remember most clearly notes his eloquence to me.

So it's dirt under the fingers that is more likely...definitely not between the ears.

Any farmer worth his or her acreage has much more of a right to discuss food politics than an urban dweller like me. Eloquence is an added bonus!

Taxingwoman said...

Hi! Orla
Last summer for the first time,it was impossible to find any local grown strawberries at the supermarket.
Sadly,even the organic store, Goodness Me, had California berries.
I was only able to get some at the local Farmers Market.
I want to buy local food, but with farmers selling their land to greedy developers it's getting harder and harder to do.
I don't blame the farmers. It's hard to be a farmer in Ontario and $5 million to retire on must be a huge temptation.
I just want my nice tasty strawberries back.

Orla Hegarty said...

Hi Taxingwoman!

The strawberry situation is rather dire in Ontario isn't it? I am going to try and suss out a pick your own ORGANIC strawberry farm this summer and freeze a bunch.

Farmers markets are the best bet and there have been something like 20 new ones sprout up in the last couple of years in the GTA...amazing eh?