St. James Town Urgently Needs Space for Food Security
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St. James Town is in the midst of an urgent food crisis. Food bank lineups are long and too many in our community are left empty-handed. Residents have long been struggling to obtain a community kitchen and access to space for local food security projects, and the need is now more urgent than ever. St. James Town is a densely populated high-rise neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, and is among the most diverse communities in the world. Our underserved community of 20,000 plus residents is home to many well educated newcomers and essential workers. We need your help to access much needed secure space and resources to feed ourselves and our neighbours!
To help improve access to basic needs, in 2015, we created a resident-led community enterprise co-operative to improve community health and human rights. But it has been too hard to get dedicated space to operate our many projects. The City and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) is ill prepared to make room for and assist local organizations in vulnerable BIPOC communities. https://www.stjamestowncoop.org
The co-op has worked with resident members, experts, youth volunteers, and farmers since 2013 to research and design an innovative climate resilient model for sustainable healthy food security: the O.A.S.I.S Food Hub. The Organic Agro-ecological Sustainable Integrated Systems model is a full-cycle, replicable food hub designed to support on-site capacity for healthy food and water security, and ensure emergency preparedness run by and for at-risk communities. As our city-funded feasibility study shows, OASIS also aligns with City and Federal Governments' food security, climate action, poverty reduction, anti-racist policy goals and targets, as well as the Human Right to Food. www.oasisfoodhub.ca
In October 2019, Councillor Wong Tam championed the OASIS model with a motion for city staff and TCHC to work with our team to find pathways to approval in support of implementation. Because of this, (and in spite of delays due to COVID 19), phase .5 of the plan, a customized shipping container Food Depot and Kitchen was all set to go for this fall. TCHC tech staff agreed with our pandemic-safe design and developed a site plan to locate and service the Food Depot. But, on September 1st, the plan was halted at the last minute, apparently due to backroom talks about a competing proposal that no one has yet heard of. After 9 years of sustained effort and due diligence, we still have no dedicated space to gather, store, process and distribute local produce and staples.
When the lockdown shut down all local borrowed spaces, members were forced to run operations entirely from their apartments instead of in our anticipated shipping container depot. Thanks to staff in the councillor's office, emergency response team and Wellesley Community Centre- the co-op got access to temporary space (but no kitchen to cook in) on December 5th for our Red Cross Emergency Food Response project, which runs until February 19th. But it will still be winter, and then spring - during a pandemic, an ongoing climate emergency and economic chaos- when our food security will be even more at risk. We will still need safe secure space!
With your support it may become possible to relocate the shipping container depot on a privately owned site - TCHC runs only 4 of St. James Town's 18 buildings. Your support could also finally convince the City and TCHC to make the effort required to permit secure access to underused and underground spaces. This would allow us to obtain funding and develop our sustainable community run eco-smart food hub.
St. James Town has faced many recent emergencies- building fires, floods and blackouts that have displaced and disrupted thousands of lives. It is now a COVID hotspot in lockdown in the grips of a growing hunger crisis. Due to climate chaos, we know there are more emergencies to come. What will happen when food prices rise further, there is not enough surplus in the food bank system, and we again have no space for high-volume food distribution? When too many households are facing hunger in March, April, May....Could there be food riots? We know what's needed, we have a solid plan and members ready and able to respond to local needs. All we need is enough safe and secure space!
Please sign our petition and help support action for inclusive, just and sustainable food security across the GTA (we are not alone in this struggle).
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