Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Riverdale Food Working Group picks local pears in South Riverdale

The Riverdale Food Working Group of which the Ralph Thornton Centre is a member worked together with Not Far From the Tree to pick pears from a tree growing right here in South Riverdale. We collected over 200 pounds of fruit from a single tree. Imagine what we could get from all the fruit trees in Riverdale?

For more information on how to get involved with fruit picking opportunities in South Riverdale contact Joanne Fisher at the Ralph Thornton Centre:

joannef@ralphthornton.org or call: 416-392-6810 ext. 231

Not Far From the Tree is an organization that brings together volunteers and tree owners to ensure their fruit does not go to waste. One third of the harvest goes to the tree owner, one third goes to the volunteer pickers and one third goes to local community organizations in need of fresh food. For more information about Not Far From the Tree visit their website at www.notfarfromthetree.org

Canning Workshop a Great Success

Last night local chef Lisa Shamai and about 12 inexperienced canners put the Betsy Swift Community Kitchen to good use here at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre. Lisa had us all working hard on recipes for Dill Pickles, Salsa and Raspberry Jam and taught us how to preserve them through the age old process of canning.

You probably remember your parents or grandparents making jars of preserves, pickles or jams in the days before globalized food but it’s a practice that’s becoming popular once again as the local food movement gains momentum.

Last month we hosted a Container Gardening Workshop to demonstrate the possibility of growing food on your porch or balcony and earlier this week we got together a small group to pick pears with Not Far From the Tree.

Toronto has become a hot-spot of urban agriculture and the Ralph Thornton Centre wants to help you become more involved. Together with the South Riverdale Food Working Group we’re hoping to bring nutritious, sustainable and delicious food to our neighbourhood.

If you have an idea for an event, or have a skill you’d like to share with the community contact us. We have meeting space and event space, a kitchen and great staff that are here for South Riverdale.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Container Gardening at the Ralph Thornton Centre

Last Thursday evening the Ralph Thornton Centre hosted a Container Gardening Workshop led by our friend Zora Ignjatovic. More than fifty people of all ages came to learn how to use a kit, or converted buckets, to grow healthy, organic fruits, vegetables and herbs in a space no larger than a blue bin.

Zora’s presentation began with photos showing the installation of her Living Food Boxes at The Big Carrot here in Toronto. These containers are large enough to produce impressive yields, yet small enough to fit on a balcony or porch, and the ingenuity of the design means you only need to fill the reservoir once or twice a week.

Afterward everyone got a close-up view of the containers Zora brought with her and she demonstrated how to start a new one. Experienced gardeners in the crowd were excited by the prospect that you can take your garden with you if you move, and gardeners who have trouble getting down on the ground can leave the container on a table for easy access.

The Ralph Thornton Centre would love to host more food and environment related events in the future, so if you have any suggestions or would like to share your skills with the community let us know.

www.rooftopgardens.ca for information about the Living Food Box

http://www.tcgn.ca Zora’s group the Toronto Community Garden Network

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

RTCC appears on You Tube!

Watch this beautiful video by Amnesty International on how Ralph Thornton Centre created our Urban Canvass Mural at Queen and Jones on Article 25 of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 Mural Art Project

My name is Suritah Teresa Wignall and I was hired by the Ralph Thornton Centre to be the Mural Project Coordinator for the summer of 2008. My background includes working with women and youth as an arts facilitator and youth worker for over 6 years in various diverse communities.

I had the opportunity to work with 7 amazing and talented youth who dedicated their time and energy in creating 2 beautiful murals and restoring one mural that had been tagged over the year before.

Our first mural was done on 887 Queen St East, on the side of the pharmacy building owned by Steven Wolk, a very enthusiastic individual, who happens to be an artist himself. Steven and the youth agreed that the mural would represent the Riverdale community, a community that encompasses families, retail stores, music, dancing and a variety of different cultures and backgrounds. So, for the month of July 2008, the mural artists and I worked on our first mural at the pharmacy. Next to the pharmacy is the Red Door Family Shelter, so I decided that it would be a good idea to have the mothers and youth from the shelter come and help us with our mural. Since the little ones were too small to paint the mural, I purchased a fairly large mural and some acrylic paints to have fun with. Overall we had a great time working together and Steve was very pleased with his mural.

Our second mural was for Amnesty International in celebration of their 60th anniversary. Amnesty International had chosen The Ralph Thornton Centre to participate in their urban canvas project. We asked to do article 25 from the universal declaration of human rights, which stated:

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, and housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

This mural project provided us with many challenges only to result in a beautiful outcome. The mural artists worked really hard day and some nights to complete this mural. Amnesty International came out to film and photograph the artists. For the film I was interviewed as well as a couple of the artists. Both photographs and film will be featured on the Amnesty website as well as You Tube. Be sure to check out Urban Project Amnesty International on You Tube December 10th, 2008 for full interviews.

To view the Amnesty International mural and the teams progress, please log unto the following link below,


Overall the artists and I had a great summer together, besides all the great work that we did, fixing up old murals and creating two new beautiful murals. The youth had the opportunity to go on a gallery viewing, take their first life drawing class, take art workshops provided by the coordinator and attend artist network events. It was a very informative and exciting summer that we all will never forget.

I would like to thank the RTC staff for all their support, in helping us get through some tough times.

All the best and see you next summer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

FOOD FOR TALK – What Canadians can do about the global food crisis

40% of food made in North America is wasted each year! Food prices are rising! Our food is processed with cancer causing chemicals! Millions of trees are being cut down to make room for agricultural fields!

These are some of the statements that began the “Food for Talk” dialogue in which I participated on Tuesday about Canada’s role in the international food crisis sponsored by Canada’s World (www.igloo.org/canadasworld.foodfortal).

As the Environmental Animator at the Ralph Thornton Centre, I have worked to share information about the environment with community members who use this space. So far, I have focused largely on environmental issues that have become increasingly common like the “reduce, reuse, recycle” model, waste reduction, and easy ways to save energy.

I have not yet addressed the relationship of food to our environment but it is, without a doubt, a key element of health, and the way food is managed has major implications for the environment in which we all live.

This week, two hundred Ontario residents from various backgrounds met to discuss areas for potential change within the local and global food systems. Inspired by speakers like Debbie Field, the Executive Director of FoodShare, Dr. Gerald Caplan, author of the “Betrayal of Africa”, Dr. David Sparling, an internationally recognized authority on issues related to food-policy and agricultural food supply chains, John Knechtel, Director of Alphabet City, and Phillip Haid, the Chair of Canada’s World Communications Committee, we covered lots of big topics in a day!

My table of 8 included
1) a representative from the South African consulate,
2) & 3) two American ex-pats from Engineers Without Borders,
4) myself as Environmental Animator at the RTC and a student of Naturopathic Medicine,
5) a Masters student writing a thesis on the feminization of Jamaican agricultural workers in North America,
6) a teacher from Toronto working in rural Nova Scotia,
7) a full-time mom and volunteer with Certified Organic Growers (www.cog.ca), and
8) our table facilitator who works for Campus Co-op providing housing for university students.

We identified major problems in the food system on all levels from the agricultural system, to the distribution, right up to the consumer. Monocultures are unsustainable, deplete the earth of nutrients making the soil less productive, put enormous financial and emotional stress on farmers, and fill the pockets of large multinational corporations. Dr. Gerald Caplan shared the following statistics to illustrate one of the problems with the distribution system: 5 companies in the world control 90% of the global grain supply, and 4 companies control 80% of US beef. That means less than 10 companies in the world, essentially regulate quality for, set prices for, benefit financially from, and ultimately determine most of what we have available to eat.

After discussing the endless issues surrounding local food supply, global food supply, and how to bridge the two, we came together to propose a list of things we could walk-away with to make sure the discussion continued: The following is the list of actions resulting from our day of talking. I invite you to choose a couple to try for yourself.

All two hundred of us said we will. . .

1) Integrate the issue of food security and continue the discussion around food into what I am already going.
2) Connect with a farmer, shop at a local market and learn the name of who farmed my food, or get a CSA share. (www.csafarms.ca)
3) Stop eating genetically modified foods and revitalize the market for natural produce. Unless otherwise indicated, Canadian crops of corn, soy, canola, and cotton, are most likely genetically modified.
4) Share good food with the people I love because it feels good.
5) Continue to research existing changes in food systems on the global level and learn from other countries.
6) Write to my MP and local elected officials and ask them “What are you doing about what Canadians are eating?” and demand a National Comprehensive Food Policy that guarantees every Canadian has access to affordable and nutritious food grown with sustainable methods.
7) Read “The Betrayal of Africa” written by Dr. Gerald Caplan to better understand the global effects of our current food distribution system
8) Research “permaculture” – a potential alternative to our current food management system
9) Demand my right to know what is in food and how it produced by understanding labels and certifications like “fair-trade”, “organic” (http://www.cog.ca/stds_regs.htm#labels), and “Local Food Plus” (www.localfoodplus.ca)
10) I will send ripples of change around myself and I will celebrate my successes, no matter how small.

If you like to eat, and want to make sure good food remains available in Canada for your children, grandchildren, and generations to come, please think about trying one of the things on the list above. Then tell us about it and join the dialogue, we’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Video featuring Community opinion on the Smart Centre

Please click on http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=IwJ6K9Xi_tY to see what some of your neighbors and local business persons have to say about the impact of a Big Box Behemoth in the heart of our neighborhood.

Share the video with your neighbors, colleagues, facebook friends and like-minded citizens and please consider making a donation to the East Toronto Community Coalition so we can continue the campaign to keep our community clean, prosperous and vibrant. Visit
http://easttorontocommunity.org/ to learn more and click on the 'donate' button to make a secure online contribution. Every penny counts!