Toronto adopts plan to create Black food sovereignty, first of its kind in North America

The city will require food services providers such as food trucks and restaurants to provide equal black employment opportunities Toronto adopts plan to create Black food sovereignty, first of its kind in North America…

Toronto adopts plan to create Black food sovereignty, first of its kind in North America

The city will require food services providers such as food trucks and restaurants to provide equal black employment opportunities

Toronto adopts plan to create Black food sovereignty, first of its kind in North America

Toronto plans to become the first city in North America to have a plan to create black food sovereignty, a plan that aims to integrate the distinctive cultural and culinary skills of racialized communities into Canadian society and ensure that its citizens have more access to a range of food options.

“We want to make sure that we have the same access to great Black food across the city as we do other ethnic food,” said Melissa Hillard, project manager for the plan.

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The initiative will require food services providers such as food trucks and restaurants to provide equal black employment opportunities, and to provide more training and development opportunities.

“We have a long history of not being able to participate in the food economy in the same way as everyone else, and not having that cultural clout to make that happen,” said Hillard.

The plan defines black food sovereignty as the ability to create a food system for the benefit of the local black community, regardless of the identity of the food itself. By putting together local black food enterprises, job training and food education, the plan aims to cut poverty and segregation in the city, and create opportunities for blacks to continue their culture and keep up with their European tradition.

“That is a challenge in Canada, because we all get together and we make maple syrup, we make jam, we cook and eat food together,” said Hillard. “But then this other kind of food goes on, and we don’t have that community, and I feel like the black community has been largely ignored.”

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The plan, which will officially be introduced in 2019, was inspired by a Canadian culture shift known as the “black food movement”, a cultural expression of black food identities.

Black food sovereignty emerged around 2009 after Ottawa chef and father of three Lewis Langford (now known as the Great Black Baker) began thinking about how he could use cooking as a tool for bringing community together, and creating a black food scene. Langford has since hosted a number of successful cook-out parties and events with the #GreatBlackBaker movement, and also has one of the largest black food festivals in Canada – the Boak Night Market.

“The idea is to change the way people relate to food,” said Langford. “It’s very rare that you have a story-driven food movement or discussion about multiculturalism in Canada, and you’re doing something to create a culture that’s kind of what our movement is about.”

Food culture is something which Canadian cuisine is still grappling with. Vancouver has garnered attention over the last few years with its large Black pantry, a community kitchen for low-income families to learn about a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. In August, the city announced that they would also consider implementing a similar food equity plan, which would provide for culturally appropriate food education.

“It’s very, very unfortunate we’re not seeing the same evolution in Toronto,” said Langford. “But more food is on the way. This is the first food equality plan that’s been released by a Canadian city, so it’s extremely exciting.”

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