Toronto’s Board of Health is looking into viable ways it can grow food on or inside new or existing infrastructures to help tackle the city’s ongoing food insecurity problem.
“So whether it’s a swimming pool that’s now abandoned in some [Toronto Community Housing] buildings, is there some opportunity to pursue aquaponics, which is to grow food in the swimming pools?” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, vice-chair of the Toronto Board of Health.
“We may have rooftop areas in the City of Toronto that are creating heat islands. How do we actually then turn that into a community hub that can also produce food?”
“It reduces green house gas emissions,” Wong-Tam added, “but at the same time, can we also use that to grow food, fruits and vegetables for the local community that the infrastructure already resides in.”
The Win: Food Insecurity
Toronto Public Health is reporting that the cost of nutritious food in Toronto has risen 7.6 percent between 2018 and 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in a decade.
Staff at the Scott Mission have also reported a steep incline in the number of people who come in for free food, especially fruits and vegetables.
“People are coming more frequently and more people need help,” said Holly Thompson with the Scott Mission.
“Healthy food is really a problem for people, as well, so we try to provide as many fruits and vegetables as we can.”
A report released late last year estimated that vegetable prices were expected to jump between four and six per cent by the end of 2019.
Now the board of health wants to develop a “food lens” by the end of 2020, which would attempt to “eliminate food insecurity and address the climate emergency across the City of Toronto” by looking at all new infrastructure projects as a potential home for food growth.
Meal prep alternatives to save money and eat healthy
In a separate recommendation, the board is also calling on the federal government to reflect the high costs of the foods recommended by Canada’s Food Guide based on the National Nutritious Food Basket, which monitors the cost and affordability of healthy eating.
“We want them to update those guidelines, recognizing that it’s good to say people need to get sufficient amount of dairy or fruits and vegetables, but what happens when communities don’t have access to the food?” said Wong-Tam.
The health board’s recommendations will now be brought forward to city council.
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