Food Security and the City Budget
This is a brief preliminary report on the impact that the coming cuts to City services will have on food security. We are currently working on a second report.
In this report:
- Food security and the City Budget
- City structures and food security
- Toronto Food Strategy
- Key statistics regarding hunger in the GTA
- Areas of cuts affecting food security
- Sale of community housing homes
- Cuts to childcare subsidies
- Student nutrition programs
- Food banks, food organizations and the City
Food Security and the City
- Food security refers to the ability to have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a healthy, active life.
- Multiple studies have documented the importance of decent income to ensure food security, but the current response to hunger in the city is mainly in the form of food donations. While community food organizations and food banks are mainly privately funded, the ability for low-income populations to access food will certainly be affected in multiple ways by the planned cuts to social services.
There are many connections between City Services and food security. For example, the City of Toronto serves food in shelters, senior’s homes, recreation centres and childcare centres, carries out food safety inspections, promotes healthy eating, offers breastfeeding support, funds school nutrition programs, provides business licences for food sales, supports community gardens and provides allotment garden spaces.
Current piecemeal approaches to food security may fail to recognize linkages among food systems and other community systems like housing and transportation. Some cuts to City services may impact indirectly on food security. For example, access to affordable and nutritious foods in low income areas has been identified as a problem – inadequate TTC service and/or cuts to TTC service will make access to food even more difficult. We know that the improved bus service on Finch was not approved. This is a significant concern because it is known that there is poor access to grocery stores in this area of the City. The City is conducting research in which they are mapping access to grocery stores in relation to low income neighbourhoods. An analysis of the research was to be released in spring 2011, and will allow us to identify with greater precision the impact that TTC service cuts is having on food security.
City Structures with oversight over food security:
The Toronto Board of Health determines and sets public health policy and advises City Council on a broad range of health issues, including governance of Toronto’s “Food Strategy”. One goal of the “Food Strategy” is to “eliminate hunger in Toronto.”
The Board of Health is composed of six Councillors, six citizen representatives and an elected school board representative.
Toronto Food Strategy
- The Toronto Food Strategy is drafted by the Toronto Food Policy Council under the Board of Health. The Board of Health recommends that the Toronto Food Policy Council continue to work toward enabling policies for food initiatives. Food initiatives are defined as community bakes ovens, fresh food markets, access to community kitchens, enabling community gardens to sell produce. However, the ways in which food security will be affected by cuts to social services remain separate from this plan.
- Ford has signalled a desire to end the City’s “buy local” food policy for its long-term care homes, shelters and daycare facilities
Board of Health Meeting Minutes. 9 May 2011.
Medical Officer of Health, “Staff Report: Toronto Food Strategy 2011 Update” (April 19, 2011).
Map: Distance to Nearest Supermarkets – Priority Areas.
Key Statistics Regarding Hunger in GTA in 2010
- 34% of food bank clients are children
- 45% of surveyed experience disability/illness
- 23% have at least 1 person working in family
- Average of 68% of income on rent, mortgages
Daily Bread Food Bank. Hunger Report 2010.
Areas of Cuts Affecting Food Security
- Sale of 22 Toronto Community Housing Corporation Houses. It is well documented that the housing crisis directly leads to hunger, as two thirds of all food bank recipients in the GTA spend over half of their income on shelter.
On June 14, 2011, City Council approved the sale. The sale still requires approval from the Province (before 10 of the 22 homes can be sold) and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Another 928 TCHC homes are on the chopping block. Ford mused he would use the money from the sales to pay towards the budget deficit, but later retracted (probably because someone told him the money would have to go back into TCHC).
Increasing property taxes. The City plans to increase property taxes and institute/increase user fees to increase revenue for the City. However, The Daily Bread Food Bank reported that in 2010, food bank recipients spent an average of 68% of their income on rent and mortgages.
Toronto Food Policy Council. 2009. Food Secure City.
Child Care Subsidies
Cuts to child care subsidies. Cutting between 2,000 and 5,000 childcare spaces means increasing the amount of meals that families must provide weekly, as well as increasing the amount of income that low-income families must put toward childcare. In January 2011, already approximately 17,700 children were on the waiting list for a fee subsidy for child care services.
Without provincial funding of the actual costs of services, the City may reduce child care subsidies by 3,500 in 2012. The City has mapped out scenarios involving cutting 2,000 spaces and 5,000 spaces. There are maps showing where the cuts would be targeted on a ward by ward basis (particularly York West, Don Valley West, Scarborough South West, Toronto Centre-Rosedale).
Minutes from Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting (May 27, 2011), item CD4.3.
Student Nutrition Programs
Toronto Partners for Student Nutrition (TPSN) administers the Student Nutrition Programs. TPSN is not a City program but relies heavily on City grants. Funding for the Student Nutrition Programs comes from the province, the City, parental contributions and local fundraising.
In terms of City money, the 2011 operating budget the Student Nutrition Program is $3,819,580 from the Community Partnership and Investment Program (CPIP). A request by the Board of Health to extend municipal funding to 30 schools was not approved this year. For next year, the CPIP grant program is under threat and may be cut by as much as 10%.
In 2010, Student Nutrition Programs provided over 131,393 Toronto children and youth with access to nutritious food.
The Student Nutrition Program has more than tripled the past decade. The elementary school participation rate is 98.7% (up from a projected rate of 70% in 2008/2009). The youth participation rate is 35% (up from a projected rate of 28% in 2008/2009).
Ongoing pressure on the program due to rising food costs and increasing participation rates, along with the program’s dependence on parental contributions and fundraising, threatens the sustainability of the program.
In 2010, the proportion of program costs funded through government sources ranged from 9-21%, down from 12-23% in 2009.
When school communities are not able to successfully fundraise or obtain parental contributions and other donations, the nutritional quality of food served suffers. Often portion sizes and the number of food groups are reduced. Other school communities may be forced to limit how often the nutrition program is offered.
Memo from Medical Officer of Health to Board of Health, “2011 Budget Request for Strengthening Student Nutrition Programs in Toronto: Year Two of a Five-Year Plan” (December 22, 2010).
Memo from Medical Officer of Health to Board of Health: “Staff Report: 2011/2012 Student Nutrition Program Service Subsidies” (April 15, 2011).
City Council agenda item HL4.6 from minutes of May 17, 2011.
Other provincial cuts affecting City food security services
The Province funds 100% the following Public Health programs for babies and children: Healthy Babies Health Children; Preschool Speech and Language; Infant Hearing; Blind-Low Vision programs.
The Board of Health has identified that current levels are insufficient to meet the needs of the children of Toronto and to meet provincial standard protocols. For the fourth consecutive year, funding levels have remained frozen, with no increase to address cost of living budget pressures (a de facto reduction of funding of almost 13%). In addition, a significant reduction to the “universal postpartum” component of the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program will go into effect on January 1, 2012. Due to funding pressures, this program has had to restrict the availability of “food certificates” for low income families to emergency situations only.
From Medical Officer of Health to Board of Health, “Staff Report: 2011 Update on Public Health Programs Funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services” (May 24, 2011).
Food Banks and Food Organizations
- Food banks and food organizations such as The Stop Community Food Centre and Foodshare are not government-funded but often receive government grants.
- Most community gardens in the city receive city funding and are administered under Parks and Recreation. Some gardens such as the Leaside Memorial Community Garden, are in the process of being audited.
Audit Committee Meeting. 14 June 2011.
-TTC fare increase and TTC cuts – affect physical and economic access
-updates from council meetings