City Foods

Liveliness and Livelihood in Sustainable Cities

How can healthy, sustainable, culturally-appropriate food provide a source of liveliness and livelihoods, and contribute to sustainable, prosperous and just cities? Dominant narratives of the future city originating in the 19th and 20th centuries left little room for small-scale food processing and consumption, including street markets, hawking, and urban farming. Ingredients were to be contained in stand-alone markets and, by the late 20th centuries, in privately-owned supermarkets. Food, as much as it provided employment, has been regarded with suspicion as a source of contagion and Toronto is typical of cities in the global North and South: food production, service, and processing remain the largest sources of employment, yet are regulated by a complex web of offices from police to health inspection. The legacy of urban modernism that imagined streets as arteries for the circulation of people and capital that must be kept free from congestion has helped shape a model of urban food systems that treats food too often as simply an input of calories.

This group challenges this sanitized vision of the metropolis by imagining food as a source of liveliness and livability in the 21st century city. Inspired, in part, by the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto’s shared commitment to the implementation of the 2014 Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (in 2016, the city and university signed Memorandum of Understanding with this aim), this interest group recognizes the vital need for cities to provide safe, equitable access to healthy, sustainable, and culturally-appropriate food. The Milan Pact, an international agreement of 180 global cities, recognizes that “ensuring the right to food for all citizens, especially the urban poor, is key to promoting sustainable and equitable development.” 

We explore the ways equitable food systems and diverse culinary infrastructure that includes urban gardens, street markets, hawking, small-scale restaurants, community-based catering, and independent food processing can promote healthy, sustainable cities.

City Food Leadership

Daniel Bender, Director, Culinaria Research Centre and Professor, Clinaria/Historical and Cultural Studies

Past Events

October 2019: Beyond Projangmacha - Edae Food Carts and the Future of Seoul's Social Gastronomy 

October 2019: "My life is on those shelves..." Ingesting Culinary Cultures in a Mediterranean Port City

November 2019: Mapping Toronto's Foodways