Cultivating Black Food Sovereignty conference held virtually in Toronto

A desk with video conference on laptop screen
Setting up for a virtual conference. Photo credit: Gabriel Benois via Unsplash.
Sam Dharmasena - CJRU - TorontoON | 26-11-2020
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Afri-Can Food Basket (AFB) has been feeding Toronto families for 25 years now. Through a range of programming, they have provided healthy and culturally-specific food to African, Caribbean and Black families since 1995. In response to the pandemic, they have been delivering free groceries through their Black Food Toronto initiative in partnership with the City of Toronto. 

AFB’s latest endeavour is a virtual conference on Cultivating Black Food Sovereignty in Toronto. The conference is free to register and runs from Nov. 27-28 on Zoom.  Zakiya Tafari, AFB’s program manager, says that he hopes the conference will bring together people that are doing similar work or complementary work to AFB. Over two days, attendees will have access to talks, panel discussion, breakout sessions and artistic performances.

“Even though we have been a leading organization doing this, there have been lots of individuals all across the city and we figured it was important to bring everybody together and start to look at how we collectively address this, and how do we form what we’re hoping to build as a Toronto Black food justice alliance,” he explains 

Tafari adds that the conference is designed not only for people working in food justice, but also community members and other food businesses such as restaurateurs and caterers. 

“A lot of times when we’re looking at shifting policies, it’s usually academics or folks that are involved in politics who will be part of those conversations and influence the change that happens. We really want to hear as many voices from community members as possible,” he says.

Through the conference, Tafari also hopes to make the case for a permanent AFB space. When asked about the timeline for this goal, he jokes that last year would have been ideal. He says it’s because a culturally-specific food bank is a much needed addition to the city. Tafari notes that the groceries distributed in their Black Food Toronto deliveries are intentional and a AFB-run food bank would have a similar outlook on food justice. He says the Black Food Toronto deliveries this summer include items like mangoes, plantain, avocados, and Caribbean sweet potatoes. 

“We looked at this [Black Food Toronto] from a dietary standpoint but as well as what we call comfort food. A lot of folks being at home, being isolated over this time ... being able to bite into a juicy mango when that delivery arrives has been so amazing for folks, especially for the seniors that grew up in the Caribbean… it’s really important,” Tafari says. 

He says that they’ve been growing callaloo at their farm and adding it in their Black Food Toronto deliveries also. Tafari explains that food like callaloo are staples in Caribbean diets but can be expensive at Canadian grocery stores. Tafari says that creating accessibility for these food items is at the heart of AFB’s work.  The Cultivating Black Food Sovereignty in Toronto virtual conference will dive into more of these promising practices and ideas from AFB and beyond.