Original Source: The Narwhal
This photo essay is part of The Narwhal’s BIPOC Photojournalism Fellowship, operated in partnership with Room Up Front and made possible by The Reader’s Digest Foundation and the generosity of The Narwhal’s readers.
Canada brandishes its agricultural sector as an economic “powerhouse” that’s responsible for producing some of the world’s highest quality foods.
In 2019, the federal government unveiled the first-ever Food Policy of Canada, which is meant, in part, to ensure everyone across the country has access to “a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food.”
Yet the food that is harvested in Canada often does not end up on the plates of racialized and marginalized communities. Individuals from the Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) community represent the most food-insecure people in Canada.
According to research from PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research, an initiative of the University of Toronto in partnership with other universities, national food insecurity — the inability to access food due to financial constraints — is predominantly experienced by Black and Indigenous communities.
A 2020 PROOF analysis of Stats Canada data from 2017 and 2018 found that 28.2 per cent of Indigenous households and 28.9 per cent of Black households identify as being food-insecure, representing the highest rates in the country.
Black-centred urban farms in Toronto — one of the world’s most diverse cities, and Canada’s largest metropolitan city — recognize this issue and see first-hand how it impacts their own community.
Toronto’s primarily Black neighbourhoods — such as Downsview-Roding CFB, Weston and Glenfield Jane Heights — are some of the poorest in the city. In 2014, the city identified these neighbourhoods — along with 28 others — as Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. Today, these neighbourhoods have been hit the hardest with COVID-19 cases.
But even as an urgent need to improve these areas is top-of-mind for Toronto decision-makers, Black urban farmers say they still face significant uphill battles when it comes to bringing healthy, local produce to Black urban communities.
“Your food is your medicine and your lifestyle is your therapy,” Jacqueline Dwyer, co-founder of the Toronto Black Farmers and Food Growers’ Collective, tells The Narwhal. “I don’t see our food doing that. [Black people] are eating the worst kind of food now.”
Dwyer says there’s been a concerted effort from Black farmers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to bring more produce to the communities that need it most.
“We’re not here to sell to sexy white markets. We’re here to serve our community, to feed those who don’t have the money to buy food and access food banks regularly.”
Read the complete photo essay on The Narwhal