Hello and welcome to Righting Our Relations with Food, a podcast series where we meet with guests from across the country to discuss food security, food sovereignty and how we can make changes to our food system with a focus on Canada. Righting Relations is a national network of adult educators and community organizers working for radical social change, and this series is part of a larger project on food sovereignty and the sustainability development goals. So if you're interested in learning more, please check out our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Today, we welcome jade guthrie. jade is a Community Foods Program Curriculum Lead and Educator at FoodShare Toronto, where she uses her background in social work to bring an intersectional anti-oppressive lens to her work engaging with food justice and sovereignty movements in meaningful ways. jade is also a community organizer with Justicia For Migrant Workers, and an organizing member of Soul Food Project Toronto. jade, I'm excited to get to talk to you today, thank you for joining me. I guess just, before we begin asking you those three questions, I guess one thing that I'm just curious to know is, like, what are the challenges that you're seeing right now in terms of food security within the city of Toronto?
Yeah, I mean, there's a lot. I think, you know, food insecurity and like food injustice has been a problem for a really long time, across Canada, but specifically in Toronto, you know, being a big urban city that is very expensive to live in. And I think what we've all seen, you know, folks working in the field, as well as just like people living in Toronto is that the pandemic has really like exacerbated all of the inequities that already existed. So, you know, it's just the cost of living is constantly rising here, people aren't making enough money to be able to put food on the table and pay rent and take care of their kids. And so we're seeing, you know, really kind of, like, skyrocketing rates of food insecurity or like self-reported food insecurity, that, again, existed way before the pandemic, but I think has just been brought to the surface in a lot of ways, and have been made a little bit more visible for folks who haven't previously experienced it. But, you know, I think it's important to highlight to that the majority of people who are bearing the brunt of, of the weight of the pandemic have been, like, Black and Indigenous folks in Toronto.
Yeah. In what ways have you seen people addressing some of these issues? And you said that this has been happening for for a while.
I mean, I think, you know, for as long as food insecurity and food and justice has existed, there's also been, like, incredible, grassroots community action that has always responded to those problems. And people have always taken care of like our own communities, and really creative and important and meaningful ways. And I think, you know, during the pandemic, we've seen such a resurgence of mutual aid, you know, like, I mean, mutual aid already existed and has been happening, specifically within BIPOC communities for decades. But I think the pandemic has really, you know, brought to light how important it is for us to take care of one another. And so we've seen like so many incredible food justice and food sovereignty based community initiatives, like, I'm thinking of, there's like the People's Pantry in Toronto, there is like, pop up community fridges with fresh produce and other food in it. There's been some really cool, like youth-led stuff. The list is incredibly long, but all of them are like, Indigenous and Black-led, a lot of youth-led initiatives just like working to organize and get together and make sure that everyone is supported during a really hard time.
Okay, so with that being said, then, like, what does food sovereignty look like in practice?
Yeah, um, I mean, for me, I think, you know, obviously, the word sovereignty, you know, conjures up like ideas of self determination and autonomy. And I think when we're talking about food sovereignty, that means really having agency and determination over, like, the food that we're eating and the food that we grow and the food that we have access to, that we cook and love, right? Just this like notion of, I think, the way that our food system has been built, it's been built by the state and by corporations, like, for the state and for corporations to like make money, right? And so in that way, as regular people and communities, we don't have control over our food system as it currently stands, right? It wasn't built for us and it wasn't built by us. And so I think when I think of food sovereignty, I think of, like, reclaiming that sense of agency and that space of power to determine, like, what I want to eat today, and making sure that the people I love can eat the food that they love to eat, and, you know, in ways that are accessible and equitable, you know. I think also, like, for me, food sovereignty is like about, like, healing as well. Like, I think the system, the food system we have currently is, so, you know, it's such like a capitalist neoliberal system, and in so many ways that attempts to destroy our relationships with one another and community, but also with food and land. And so I feel like when we talk about food sovereignty, it's like, a big emphasis on reconnecting to food and reconnecting to land and like healing those connections that these systems have attempted to destroy and kind of get rid of, right? So, like, reclaiming traditional food ways, and reclaiming ancestral knowledge around food that might have been lost as a result of so many different systems of oppression.
Yeah, I definitely agree that we definitely have lost that touch of that reconnection to food and us, especially feeling disconnected to the land. Yeah, like, was there any innovative ideas or approaches that you would see in terms of addressing food sovereignty?
Yeah, I mean, there's like, there's so many. One of the things I love about working in the space of food justice, and food sovereignty, and, like, the food movement more generally, is just that every day I learn about someone new, who's - not someone new, but it's new to me - who's doing incredible work. And it's like, every day, it's kind of really life giving and hope-inspiring to see all the incredible community initiatives that are constantly happening. I do a lot of community organizing with Justice For Migrant Workers (J4MW). And I think that has been a really rich learning space for me personally around food sovereignty, because prior to getting involved with J4MW, I thought a lot about food insecurity and food security and food justice in terms of, like, access to food for communities, but had never really conceptualized you know, food justice, or food sovereignty within terms of the entire food system, and the supply chain, and the people whose labor are ensuring that there's food on people's tables every day. And so, organizing with, like, workers who, you know, leave their home countries to come here and put food on tables across Canada, you know, folks who are mostly Black and Brown and Indigenous in their home countries who have, you know, so much knowledge around food growing and how to take care of the land. I think working with folks coming from these spaces has been a really good learning experience for me, in terms of, like, kind of shifting my understanding of what food justice actually looks like. Like, it's not just about one part of the system, right? It's like this entire thing, and we need to be thinking about all of the different moving parts in a system. Like if, if people aren't getting paid decent wages, or or, you know, don't have access to decent working conditions, then is it a just food system, just because other people have access to food, right? And then also thinking about the ways that even with the migrant worker program that we do have here in Canada, which is called the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, like, thinking about that system itself, which is the foundation of Canada's agricultural industry, and the ways that that system is so extractive and replicates so many colonial processes by going into other countries and like, exploiting people's labor and extracting resources so that Canada can continue to build wealth, right? And so it's just like, for me, it's been a really big learning experience to just kind of totally turn on its head what I thought food justice or food sovereignty was. So I feel really lucky to work with and organize with so many people who have that experience, that firsthand knowledge. I think outside of that, more recently, I've been really inspired by - Toronto, recently approved a Black Food Sovereignty Action Plan - and, you know, I've, I feel really privileged to know some of the folks who were involved in the grassroots organizing that got that on the table and like, put into the plan. And, you know, it's taken decades for that to become something that was put into policy, but I think it's a really important thing to think about, you know, when we talk about enacting or engaging in food sovereignty or food justice work, it's like, there's grassroots action, but there's also policy changes that needs, like there's so many different parts that we need to be putting pressure on, and so I think it's something like the Black Food Sovereignty Action Plan is such a beautiful example of the ways that community action, like at the grassroots, has also, you know, led to policy changes and systems changes. Like it works, right? And I think that that's so hope-giving for me to, to see that happen. You know, I've also seen some really cool stuff on social media lately from a lot of Indigenous youth groups across Toronto doing food sovereignty stuff, there's one, I think they're called, like, to Toronto Plant Life. And they do a lot of youth-led gatherings to learn more about traditional food ways, and traditional ways of growing and all that stuff, reclaiming, you know, intergenerational knowledge. And I think, I feel so inspired when I see youth just like doing, like, they're - the generation that came after my generation is just like, so with it. They just, like, know what they're doing. And they're like, killing it, you know? So I feel really like excited every time I get to see that happen and be a part of that.
Okay, well, that sounds exciting, actually, that's really inspiring, just kind of giving me hope about the different people playing different roles and, and addressing some of these concerns. I'm starting to worry about where this was all going. I'm glad to hear that. Yeah. So like, how do you think that we would approach Righting Our Relations with Food?
I mean, it's big question. I think, you know, like I said earlier, I think a big part of, for me, at least, you know, this notion of food sovereignty, kind of like this focus on healing is really important, and rebuilding relationships and rebuilding connections. So again, kind of coming at it from a space of closing the gap between us and our food, and us and our food system, and us and land, where our food comes from, right, like, kind of building those bridges is, is really important. And I think, you know, I think food sovereignty looks really different for every community. For me, I'm the daughter of a Black immigrant, but I'm also a settler on stolen land. And so the way that food sovereignty might play out in my own life is going to be really different than, you know, the many Indigenous nations across the land. So I think, you know, as someone who's like, a young, mixed woman, a big part of food sovereignty, for me is understanding where the intersections lie between, like, Black food sovereignty and Indigenous food sovereignty, and like, you know, all the different communities that exist here, and kind of understanding how we can support one another to build a better food system that works for everyone. And also understanding, particularly my own responsibilities as a settler, and specifically supporting Indigenous food sovereignty and land back movements, because it's like, you know, so complicated because in one space, I am looking to heal my own connections with land, you know, that's complicated by things like forced displacement and the transatlantic slave trade. And me being a settler here, but at the same time, how do I support land back movements, as a settler, in meaningful ways, and support Indigenous food sovereignty, right, and that reclaiming of traditional knowledge for other communities? So I think a big part of food sovereignty is just unpacking all of that for me, and just understanding the connections and figuring out, like, where the pieces fit in, and what my roles or responsibilities are, and how I can be accountable to other people, and other parts of the movement. Yeah. And I think more broadly, just, you know, the goal is to build a new food system, to build a system that works for the people. And I think that what that really calls for is like shifting the way that we think about food, generally, I think, like I said, you know, our food system, as it currently exists was built by rich people for rich people to get richer. And so, you know, our food system, inherently just looks at food as a commodity, as something to, like, make money off of. And I think, the way forward for me, when I think about righting our relations, whether that's with food, or land or other communities, is just, like, positioning food within a space or an economy of care, rather than as a commodity. And just understanding that food is something we can use to take care of one another. Right? And it's like, something that can bring us together and, and the way that we can share space and build connections, rather than something that we have to, like, go to the store and spend like our last few dollars on, right? So just kind of that mindset shift is really important for me as well. Just, like, taking a step back and looking at food as so much more than just an object, right? Yeah.
Yeah. Thank you. And I think you really touched upon some of the things around land and also just with creating that community around food and yeah, so I really appreciate sharing from your experience your work around food sovereignty. Did you have any other final words that you may want to share with us?
No, I don't think so. I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to be here and chatting with me!
Thank you for listening to this month's episode of Righting Our Relations with Food. We would like to thank our wonderful guests for sharing their knowledge and their insights with us, and from everyone here at Righting Relations Canada, we would like to thank our partner, the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights, and of course, our funders, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, and Employment and Social Development Canada for making this project possible. And we hope you'll join us again next month!