Eaters Farmers’Markets & Food Markets need your help! Strawberries and asparagus harvest are only a few weeks away.

We are calling on municipal leaders, public health and eaters to support their local farmers and other local businesses during this difficult and uncertain times. Ontario growing season is around the corner and market managers as well as local farmers and food producers need to know that they have a safe place to go and sell their food and continue to bring local food into the city.

Context

Traditionally during the summer season (May to October), the City of Toronto has approximately 100+ outdoor markets (46 Good Food Markets, 48 farmers markets and 14 community food markets) that operate in public parks, city facilities, public or private parking lots, religious or educational institutions, community hubs and private spaces. These markets play a vital role in providing access to fresh, local high-quality produce to tens of thousands of residents, and the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and small business owners in Ontario. Generating economic activity and strengthen regional food systems so critical to ensuring the city and regional resilience

In November 2019, Toronto City Council approved the adoption of a food lens that calls for all divisions to leverage their respective work to support the objectives of eliminating food insecurity and addressing the climate emergency across the City of Toronto. The Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) recommends that all food system responses developed to address the challenges of COVID-19, including emergency responses and long term recovery strategies, should align with the proposed food lens framework.

● Food is the strongest lever to optimize human and planetary health (EAT-Lancet Commission, 2019).

● Cities play an important role in improving food systems, and COVID 19 relief efforts can help us re-design a more inclusive, diverse, interconnected and resilient food system

● The City of Toronto has made several food and climate-related commitments including the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the C40 Good Food Cities Declaration and the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Pledge.

● Toronto declared a climate emergency and further committed to accelerating Toronto’s Climate Action Plan in 2019.

Recognizing the work Toronto Public Health (TPH) has done to date, the TFPC unanimously endorses the recommendations below. These recommendations will solidify the City’s of Toronto’s local and international commitments toward the development of a more inclusive sustainable food system, reducing food waste and increasing food security [see appendices for details for each motion and background].

Recommendations

● Treat Markets (farmers’ markets and Good Food Markets) as essential services, municipalities like Ottawa are already doing it so why Toronto is stuck in an issue of “legal interpretation” instead on focusing on the important issues of food safety, traceabliity, food access and regional resilience?

● Markets need to be able to operate in Public Spaces, making sure our cities public space (streets, parks and facilities) continue to serve Public needs— research indicates that outdoor markets are safer than indoor grocery stores.

● That Toronto Public Health approves Farmers Market Ontario (FMO) COVID-19 protocols and guidelines accepted by the Association of Supervisors of Public Health Inspectors of Ontario (ASPHIO);

● That the City of Toronto supports farmers’ markets, good food markets and food hubs to increase resident access to local food by promoting information about locations and hours at the City of Toronto website and on social media channels;

● Lastly, Toronto Public Health needs to collaborate with Market operators to finalize Public Health Guideline so we can operate markets in a safely manner.

Best Practice Considerations

Compliance with Provincial Designations: The Province has designated businesses that primarily sell food (including food markets) as essential services under the current Emergency Order, allowing them to remain open. The recent cancellation of all special events permits in City facilities & parks conflicts with this designation

Precedent: St. Lawrence Market, Toronto’s largest food and farmers’ market continues to be in operation and has managed to create a safe environment for businesses to operate and provide food to nearby residents. This demonstrates that public markets can adapt to best practice public health guidelines.

Protocols: In British Columbia Farmers’ markets are considered an essential service under BC state of emergency declaration. In accordance with the declaration, Vancouver farmers’ markets are operating under COVID 19 protocols, developed by the BC Centre for Disease Control, working in partnership with local Public Health teams to monitor the situation. Farmers Market Ontario (FMO), has developed similar protocols in consultation with the ASPHIO.

Pre- Order and Pick up model: In Toronto, the Greenbelt Market network is providing free licences to food markets to establish online stores, and hope to have centralized pick-up points at their regular market location and time. This model has been successfully implemented since March 16 across all 50 farmers’ markets in the province of Nova Scotia. Toronto market organizations have identified 5 to 10 food markets interested in prototyping the pre-order pick-up model during the month of May. These prototypes will provide the opportunity to test and adjust the model as well as train market managers from smaller markets from June to October to fine-tune implementation.

To conclude, The solution to this pandemic crisis cannot exclude farmers’ markets and local producers from our food access strategies and recovery strategies. As highlighted in many other cities markets, like many grass-root initiatives, have the capacity to adapt quickly to health and climate shocks. We need to support and enable public food distribution models such as has farmers’ markets, public markets, and food co-ops. They are effective “short supply chains,” which not only support regional small and medium producer, but can also address food access needs that conventional food supply chains do not serve. Collaboration on best practices and models on how to operate them safely is already happening across North America, so lets advocate to see farmers’s markets and food markets open in May! make sure you let your councillor know you support this.

Marina is a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council and the lead in its work on public markets.

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