Black Food Sovereignty Movement Rooted in Toronto

Aliyah Fraser has always been fascinated by the powerful simplicity of growing food.

But it took a long time — a pandemic and a social justice movement — to see farming as a viable career option. “I’ve never seen farmers who looked like me,” she says.

Why we wrote this

Charity can be an essential tool for meeting an immediate need. But when it comes to food security, generosity alone won’t solve root problems. In Toronto, a burgeoning effort shows just how nourishing empowerment can be.

Now she is part of a growing movement to diversify food production in Canada. Amid scarcity caused by pandemic disruptions and rising inflation, that work is helping to shift the conversation about food insecurity from one that relies on charity to alleviate hunger to a long-term goal of black empowerment and food sovereignty.

In April, the Toronto City Council voted to update its food charter to address inequalities in the system. The move is part of a wider effort to support Black-led food security initiatives.

“To get to where we want to go to address the inequalities we experience that are holding us back or limiting us,” said Winston Husbands, a food justice activist, “we need to be able to exercise some sort of stewardship. about the food system for our own needs and in our own interest.”

Moffat, Ontario

Aliyah Fraser has always been fascinated by the powerful simplicity of growing food. It started in her grandmother’s garden in Toronto, where she watched in awe as tomatoes, squash and squash would swell. “I’d just run around like a little rascal, eating all the ripe raspberries,” she says. “That garden has always been my safe place.”

But it took a long time—a pandemic and a social justice movement—to see farming as a viable career. “I just never really saw myself as a farmer. I’ve never seen farmers who looked like me,” she says, sticking a homemade wooden spoon in the soil and planting garlic on a chilly afternoon in rural Ontario.

It is about as mundane a task as any farmer. But the larger goal, as she enters her second season as the owner of Lucky Bug Farm, is much less prosaic. “What I’m trying to model with Lucky Bug Farm, as a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and financially solvent farm run by a black woman, shouldn’t be so radical, revolutionary, or never seen before. But it is.”

Why we wrote this

Charity can be an essential tool for meeting an immediate need. But when it comes to food security, generosity alone won’t solve root problems. In Toronto, a burgeoning effort shows just how nourishing empowerment can be.

She joins other farmers, agricultural groups and justice advocates to diversify food production in Canada — and empower disadvantaged communities to take greater control of the system. Amid scarcity caused by pandemic disruptions and rising inflation, that work is helping to shift the conversation about food insecurity from one that relies on charity to alleviate hunger to a long-term goal of black empowerment and food sovereignty. It is part of a growing movement in North America.

“The normal way to measure food insecurity is to ask people how often… they should go hungry,” said Winston Husbands, a food justice activist at Afri-Can FoodBasket in Toronto. “Those are good indicators, and part of the tools people use to tackle food insecurity in the short term. But they do not generate food sovereignty.”

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