Does FOOD connect us all?

What does it mean to declare that food connects us all?

In a world where the better-off among us munch on organic produce shipped in from the furthest reaches of the globe, while others subsist off $1 specials at discount grocery stores, do those connections really exist, or are they merely words on paper?

Add your two cents, your observations, your proclamations, throw down your own gauntlet and discuss in this first part of a series of discussions on the ever-present force in all life: FOOD.

The following letter is being published in conjunction with the Alphabet City FOOD Festival and anthology. Check out the FOOD book here.

For your chance to win your own copy, get involved by commenting on each discussion. Be sure to check in and comment frequently as we’ll be adding discussion topics weekly. At the end of each discussion we will randomly draw a name and send the winner a copy of this year’s anthology, FOOD.

Alphabet City Open Letter

Once upon a time everyone thought the world was flat. Figuring out that it was round changed how we saw everything. Now the next revolution in perspective has taken hold — the world is not just round, it is connected. The Global Village — Marshall McLuhan’s phrase for the connected world created by new communications technologies — has arrived, and not just in communications but also with food and foodways. We think this global food village must be connected by conscience and fairness — to the other villagers, to our environment.

The way we grow, market, process, manufacture, and distribute our food here in Ontario reveals connections across the global village. Ontario’s working landscapes, farms, rural communities, and cities are linked in a web of complex exchanges. But our food policies to date have usually ignored that web, dividing rather than connecting. If we are going to build a healthy and sustainable village, we have to make the connections.

This letter is supported by, and represents the initiatives of, a network of organizations working on many aspects of food policy in Ontario. We are working together because we believe that food is connected to every major problem
being raised in the current provincial election campaign — rising medical costs, poverty and hunger, declining farm incomes, the paving-over of farmland, wildlife protection, urban sprawl, youth unemployment, and communities at risk.

These problems will only be solved when we connect the dots.

Local farmers markets, community and school gardens, food co-ops, urban gardens, food access centres — all of these emerging possibilities support healthier, tastier food for all villagers. As this happens, everyone benefits and communities become stronger and more inclusive.

Provincial politics have become increasingly stuck in a frustrating gridlock. We have separate ministries for agriculture, health, economic development, community development, and the environment, as well as a multiplicity of non-governmental organizations, each focused on a single piece of the problem. We are at risk of missing many of the potential connections and the benefits they could generate.

This letter invites you to help us propose elegant solutions to the complicated problems embedded in today’s food system. It takes food to raise a better village. Connect to us and a month of local food events at , and share your ideas by joining the conversation at . Ideas that will call on everyone’s talents, abilities and resources. Ideas that are financially viable, ecologically responsible, and socially equitable.

This is not about partisan politics: We’re asking each of the political parties to respond to this imperative. This Open Letter asks for an open mind from all of Ontario’s citizens and its politicians. We ask you to engage with these issues, and to work together to find long-lasting solutions to our food policies.