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Pantalone makes food the focus of mayoral bid

Toronto's Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone will make food prosperity - where people buy it, how they produce it and how available it is to everyone -the major focus of his campaign to be the city's next Mayor, he said Wednesday.

From a downtown rooftop garden, Mr. Pantalone said Toronto was full of opportunities to be more sustainable and healthier. But so far, people are not taking advantage of them, he said.

Under his proposed plan, the mayoral hopeful would double the amount of community gardens in the city, plant 1,000 fruit trees in parks every year, and support regional agriculture by creating twice as many farmer's markets than currently open in the city.

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"We are what we eat," he said, "and our city is how we eat."

According to statistics cited by Mr. Pantalone, food is Toronto's largest employment sector, providing one out of eight jobs for Torontonians.

Yet one out of 10 households cannot afford healthy meals, he said. Encouraging community and rooftop gardens would make healthy, local options more affordable for lower-income families.

And with 20 per cent of Toronto's surface area taken up by roof tops, there is a lot of real estate available to devote to growing food, he said.

"We have to change our mind-sets about how we live in our city," he said.

Mr. Pantalone's plan also involves increasing city funding of school nutrition programs, placing an educational "food hub" in every neighbourhood and building two community food centres: one in the east end and another in the north-west.

While he admits not everyone will change their lifestyles to incorporate buying and producing local food, he said the proposal will make that option more appealing.

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"I think Torontonians will want to do their part if the city sets up the foundation," he said.

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