1.28.2015

The Food Issues Book Club: Food and the City, Chapter 10

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

Food and the City, Chapter 10: Toronto - Cabbagetown 2.0

Summary:

Toronto has long been home to vegetable gardening, earning it the nickname Cabbagetown.  This may be because it is no stranger to food insecurity.  As such it's also home to FoodShare, Canada's longest lived food security organization.  The group uses tactics such as CSA shares, food literacy events and classes, and farmer's markets placed in low-income neighborhoods to address food insecurity.

Toronto doesn't let their fruit get lonely!
Another group, called Not Far From The Tree, collects fruit not being harvested from urban residential trees to donate to local charity groups.  Thousands of pounds of fruit are collected each season for donation to charities that provide meals to residents.  In addition to such gleaning, public edible landscapes may be planted in the future to increase food security and fresh food access in underserved areas.

Backyard chickens are also beginning to gain traction in Toronto.  They provide fresh eggs and can dispose of kitchen scraps and create fertilizer much more quickly than composting can.  The city is resistant to change its bylaws to reflect the chickens' presence, however.

Failure to include food resources in urban planning has led to "food deserts," areas where no fresh food is available.  Food activists want to change this practice by making the problem clear to city planners.

Discussion:

Food insecurity is real - even in Toronto.  While I can't think of an organization parallel to FoodShare here in New Orleans, we have a direct parallel to Not Far From The Tree: The New Orleans Fruit Tree Project.

The project began as an offshoot of Hollygrove Market and as the name implies, it "harvests fruits from private residential property in the city of New Orleans that would otherwise go to waste. The harvested produce is donated to local organizations that feed the hungry."  If you're the owner of a fruit tree and don't use all of its fruit, you can register your tree for harvesting by the group.  You can also volunteer as a harvester.  And it just so happens that tonight is the group's Second Annual Citrus Celebration.

One of the resident roosters of Lafreniere Park
As for backyard chickens, I have feelings on this.  Chickens living in backyards are almost certainly better off than those in battery cages, and I do think it's possible to give them a comfortable life if you care for them properly.  Unfortunately, what seems to be happening in urban areas is that people think they want backyard chickens but then tire of the work they entail, or don't want the chickens anymore when they stop laying.


So I'll say this: if you're considering backyard chickens, do your research and provide them with everything they need to be healthy and happy for their long lives.  Plan to keep providing a comfortable and safe home for them for as long as they live - up to 14 years - not just as long as they're productive and useful to you.  And please ADOPT chickens that already need homes rather than mail-ordering chicks, a cruel practice that can lead to many deaths, and feeds off of the worst animal agriculture practices.  Finally, note that roosters are illegal within Orleans parish!

That urban planners have ignored food access, assuming that everyone has the transportation and time to go wherever they'd like, is all too obvious in most American cities.  Here there's a slightly different tinge to it: our neighborhoods were laid out before cars came around, and access wasn't an issue because there were corner groceries everywhere.  My Sicilian great grandparents, who lived not far from where I do now in Mid-City, ran just such a grocery.  So what happened?

The Piggly Wiggly happened.  We still have one on the Westbank.  Supermarkets brought about the demise of small specialty stores and general grocers, taking access away from neighborhoods and focusing it on thoroughfares inaccessible to those without cars.  Care will need to be taken both to locate supermarkets in areas of the city that still want for food access, and to improve public transportation so that all residents can access these central locations.

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