How have individuals’ and families’ food-related activities changed as a result of COVID-19, particularly in light of school closures and rising food insecurity? How can urban growing and government- and community-level initiatives help build a resilient food system? Join the Feeding the City team from Tkaronto (Toronto) as we hear from three experts on these questions: Rhonda Teitel-Payne is the Co-coordinator of Toronto Urban Growers (TUG). She has been active for over 20 years with programs such as The Stop Community Food Centre, Toronto Community Garden Network, and the World Crops project. Debbie Field is the Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food and Associate Member, Centre for Studies in Food Security, at Ryerson University. She was the Executive Director of FoodShare for 25 years. Utcha Sawyers is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of East Scarborough. She was an inaugural member of Food Secure Canada’s Board of Directors (2013-2017), and is an international Food Justice, Equity & Access consultant and advocate. Moderated by Jayeeta (Jo) Sharma and Sarah Elton. Jo is an Associate Professor of History and Food Studies at the Culinaria Research Centre of the University of Toronto, and the Project Lead for Feeding the City. Sarah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University, and the author of several award-winning popular books on urban food systems. Supported by the Culinaria Research Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough  

Webinar Summary

In this roundtable, three experts discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on various community food initiatives in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. With regard to community recreation, panelist Utcha Sawyers from theEast Scarborough Boys and Girls Club identified that food insecurity was the most immediate issue in the local community when the pandemic hit. The same trends were highlighted by panelist Debbie Field from the Coalition for Healthy School Food, as the closure of schools nationwide restricted food access to individuals and families across the GTA. Additionally, panelist Rhonda Teitel-Payne from Toronto Urban Growers highlighted restricted access to urban food strategies, as the COVID-19 lockdown inhibited the use of community growing spaces. In their respective communities, all three panelists asserted that it is imperative that their work is anti-oppressive and rather that it remains centered within the fight for food justice. Ultimately, the panelists identify the COVID-19 pandemic as an unprecedented opportunity for transformation within the food system, through which school and community food programs and urban agriculture initiatives may be strengthened. For detailed notes on this webinar, click here.