People and programs 05/28/2021
Black Creek Community Farm (BCCF) engages, educates, and empowers diverse communities through sustainable food. A Good Food Organization partner with Community Food Centres Canada since 2018, BCCF serves and enriches the northwest Toronto community of Jane-Finch through a thriving farm, healthy food, hands-on training and learning experiences. BCCF’s mission is to inspire the next generation by providing leadership in food justice, and supporting diverse natural and social ecosystems.

When Black Creek Community Farm (BCCF) collaborated on the 2019 report Fighting For Food Justice in the Black Creek Community, they described what it looks like to access food in one of Toronto’s low-income neighbourhoods.

Long bus rides to the grocery store. Trouble affording healthy and culturally-relevant food.  Lack of access to green space. Food items kept behind a locked gate.

“All these little things add up. Everyone needs to eat and everyone deserves to eat well, but food has been politicized,” says Adjowa Karikari, Education Coordinator at BCCF.

“A lot of racialized, working-class folks live here in the Jane-Finch community. Not many have the time or money to go out and create a fantasy community garden. Between working and taking care of their kids, they already have so much on their plates.”

Food justice as a solution

Food justice is about addressing the power imbalance that keeps people from being able to access healthy food. It looks at shifting power to the community—power to grow their own food and make decisions about where their food comes from.

BCCF is working to shift power to the community by providing access to gardens and educational workshops on their eight-acre farm.

“These programs strengthen our residents’ relationship to their food. By understanding how we grow our food and where it comes from, we can work towards food sovereignty in our communities."

  —Fatin Chowdhury, Development and Communications Manager at BCCF

Pandemic programs provide access to healthy food and connection

Beyond existing food access issues, the Jane-Finch community has been hit hard by COVID-19. Many residents are essential workers who have to take public transit, juggle child care and remote learning with their kids.

“We’ve had among the highest positivity rates in Toronto, but vaccination rates have been low compared to richer neighbourhoods. This clearly shows that systemic racism is at play when it comes to equitable access to health care in Jane-Finch,” says Fatin.

In March 2020, BCCF began an emergency food box program to support community members experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic.

“We understand it's not a long-term solution,” adds Fatin. “But we've been able to deliver over 24,000 food boxes—the equivalent of 390,000+ pounds of food for the Jane and Finch community. It demonstrates that we need this level of support here.”

They continue to grow food on the farm, with fewer people on site.

As Adjowa notes, the community garden plots have been an essential factor in combating social isolation. For some people, it’s one of the very few moments they’ve been able to get out into public spaces outside of their homes.

Taking action with the community

Well-known and respected across the city for their food justice work, Black Creek Community Farm is always working behind the scenes to influence decision-makers. They’re involved in roundtable discussions and meetings with city councillors, advocating for solutions that address food insecurity.

“Residents here very clearly understand and advocate for the issues that affect them. Like a higher minimum wage, which would ensure they have adequate income to be able to access healthy foods."

“It's about the will from our politicians and decision-makers to make those changes," adds Fatin.

BCCF wants to see more government investment in urban agriculture. This would enable them to scale their work and ensure organic food is both accessible and affordable for the community.

They also want to see progress on migrant workers’ rights and protections, and are actively advocating for them to be able to work safely in Canada.

And they want to see governments at all levels taking more action to address food insecurity and poverty.

“The pandemic has brought inequities out in the open for everybody to see,” adds Adjowa. “Communities have a role to play. But at the end of the day, the government needs to put in more effort to address these issues. It's going to be a long fight, but I think it's a really good one.”

Visit Black Creek Community Farm to learn more.