Meet some of Toronto's food justice advocates championing Black food sovereignty


While the COVID-19 pandemic has painted a grim picture of just how fragile our food systems are and how hard-hit racialized communities have been, food justice advocates in Toronto's Black community are pushing for long-term solutions to tackle inequities in Canada's food system.

They are pushing for food sovereignty. 

Executive director of Afri-Can Food Basket Anan Lololi defines food sovereignty as the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food. 

The notion is to create a "Black food ecosystem" that will allow community members to be the drivers of their own development, through farming and distributing food by them and for them.

Lololi said organizations including his, have been working toward cultivating food sovereignty and security for Toronto's African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) communities as the current food system in place is not an "equal playing field."

"In a country as rich as Canada we are supposed to make sure there is more equity in the food system," Lololi said.

Lololi says the goal is for community members to be able to exercise self empowerment and gain access to healthy, organic and culturally-appropriate foods.

Among many advocates, Lololi says food banks and programs indeed fill an important immediate need, but they aren't the solution that the community desperately needs.

Lololi says the Afri-Can Food Basket's mission is to provide leadership in urban agriculture and foster collaboration with other organizations to advance food justice, health and social enterprise for the Black Canadian community.

Lack of control over access to food

Advocates say the level of food insecurity in Black communities comes as a result of a lack of control over access to food, and the extent to which Black communities are structurally disadvantaged in Canadian society. 

Almost 30 per cent of Black households experience food insecurity, as well, they are 3.6 times more likely to be food insecure than white households, according to Statistics Canada data compiled by PROOF, a food insecurity policy and research group out of the University of Toronto, and Foodshare.

Prior to the pandemic, only 10 per cent of white households reported food insecurity, compared to 28 per cent of Black households, according to the Toronto Fallout Report.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) have unemployment rates almost twice as high as white Canadians, the report notes.