Report back – Dec 3rd PFN Community Forum

On December 3rd 2012, Parkdale Food Network held its community forum to (re)engage PFN members and reflect on its current activities – bulk-buying/Neighbourhood food distribution; community land trust; and community engagement. Also the event welcomed the guests from Start Me Up Niagara, St. Catharines, too.

The event began with the introduction by Ayal Dinner from West End Food Co-op, one of the founding members of PFN. He provided a brief background of the network, introduced a wide range of members, and outlined the key goals for the event. He went on to give a quick ‘tour’ of a newly opened community food hub, West End Food Co-op. WEFC itself was established a couple of years ago, and since then, it has operated a successful Sorauren Farmers’ Market and has organized a number of food-related workshops. In October 2012, WEFC opened a long-awaited co-op retail store on 1299 Queen St West in the basement of Parkdale Community Health Centre. It is our community hope that this physical space becomes a hub for community food activities and learning opportunities. This December 3rd event was the very first community event held at such a community food hub. The introduction presentation is available here for download. For more information about WEFC, please visit the website and their store!

Intro

The exciting introduction was followed by updates from each subcommittee. (To download PowerPoint presentations from each, please hit the subtitle)

1. Bulk-buying/Neighbourhood Food Distribution
This subcommittee came out of a common concern among many non-profit organizations providing food programs: only donation cannot keep up with increasing needs for community food programs, but purchasing by individual organizations on their own may not make good economic sense due to inefficiencies and higher costs. With this, the subcommittee has worked to explore the possibility of bulk-buying key food items and neigbourhood-based food distribution network. After conducting agency survey and exploring some possible pilot items, the subcommittee has picked up “coffee” as the first pilot product for bulk-buying, as coffee is an item that many organizations purchase and consume a lot. Through planning the pilot, the subcommittee encountered multi-faceted and interconnected challenges of item, transportation, delivery, storage, payment, and financial model etc; the conflict between hope for ethical consumption and need for cost-saving;  and the complexity of logistics and administration. Despite such challenges, the subcommittee has been addressing one by one and will be ready to roll out a pilot project early next year. Also the work that has been done will contribute to a foundational stage of two-year research project, Community Food Flow study, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Bulkbuying

2. Community Land Trust
Community Land Trust subcommittee worked on three key activities: Community mapping; building a transitional board of directors; and research on democratic governance model for Parkdale CLT. Please see the previous entries for all the maps the group has created so far such as change in the number of rooming/boarding homes, change in commercial property value of Queen St West, or overall land use map of Parkdale.

The transitional board of directors  has been almost formed. For this transitional board, board of directors are made up of key organizations and individuals who represent diverse community members in Parkdale. Those organizations that have agreed to sit on the first board are (as of December 7th 2012):

  • PARC
  • Greenest City
  • West End Food Co-op
  • Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association
  • Kathy Allan (Development Consultant)
  • St. Christopher House
  • Parkdale Village BIA
  • Parkdale Community Legal Services
  • Sistering

This board will work together along with subcommittee members until the PCLT makes a shift to a membership-based model. An appropriate membership and governance model for Parkdale CLT has been researched by a group of students from University of Toronto Planning Program. The group has completed its final report, which will be posted to the website soon. The group will present their finding and recommendations to Parkdale community members in early January.

3. Community Engagement
This subcommittee is new. This came out of ongoing activities in partnership with Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks. Over the summer, the group has organized three workshops on civic literacy at PARC, Greenest City, and Parkdale Community Health Centre (please see the past entries). Among many concerns and challenges, participants felt that there is lack of ongoing opportunities for them to get involved in food education, to support their engagement in policy making and local politics, and to be informed about what is happening in the neighbourhood. Also participants expressed their strong interest in learning skills and knowledge about healthy food and urban agriculture. To keep the momentum going and engagement activities sustainable, this subcommittee was launched.

The presentation was centred around quick report back on these three workshops, goals of the subcommittee and key activities for next couple of months. One of such activities is to support community members in making a deputation on the proposed city budget 2013. It is likely that the proposed cutbacks in housing service and community grants, if approved, would have severe impact on food security among Parkdale community. Public hearings, where people can make a deputation, are scheduled on December 10th and 11th.

closing

*Thanks to Maytree Foundation and Metcalf Foundation for generous support that made this event possible, and to West End Food Co-op for providing space and great lunch, and to all PFN steering committee for planning and organizing the event.

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