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The Ring - CCxA

Artifact: Digging in

How does race figure into conversations about food security? A more challenging way to put this: How is it that race, for a long time, has not figured into mainstream conversations about food security?

Jacqueline Dwyer and Noel Livingston work to dismantle food oppression for those (such as themselves and other community members) living in neighbourhoods that don’t have access to good healthy food, or can’t afford it. Their activism is centred on a food and social justice approach that reclaims knowledge and traditions that have fed generations before them.

The Toronto Black Farmers and Growers Collective created a farm, with the Ontario Heritage Trust, at Ashbridge Estate in Toronto in order to restore the farming heritage of the property and bring diverse, local food to the Moss Park community. IMAGE/ Lorraine Johnson

Dwyer and Livingston — and the organization they co-founded in 2014, the Toronto Black Farmers and Growers Collective — have been centrally involved with many projects and initiatives in Toronto neighbourhoods such as Jane/Finch (a collaborative pilot project for the first farmers’ market), Downsview (creating a cultural urban farm at Downsview Park that provided summer employment to local highschool youth and provided donated food to those who needed it), Eglinton Flats (at Emmett Community Gardens), and Southeastern Riverdale (Ashbridge Estate). In 2018, they created the first Afro-Indigenous Food Security Festival, which was held at Downsview Park in September.

“Food always brings people together,” says Dwyer. “Food must now create local employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, to ensure that people are not hungry.” Adds Livingston: “Food breaks down barriers and builds bridges.”

Their goal for the future: “To continue dismantling racial food injustice against Black people by ensuring this food system is culturally relevant, accessible, and funded to address community food justice and food security issues through partnerships for Afro-Indigenous people…” Their work in the present: “At the grassroots.” And the pathway forward: “Community decision-making at the table, serving and empowering food-insecure and food-poor people, and remedying systemic injustices they live with. Good food is a right and should be treated as such.”

TEXT BY LORRAINE JOHNSON, AUTHOR OF CITY FARMER: ADVENTURES IN URBAN FOOD GROWING AND THE EDITOR OF GROUND.

Noel Livingston. IMAGE/ Rhonda Teitel-Payne