I live in Toronto with my husband and two sons, close to the shore of Lake Ontario and on the edge of the Little India neighbourhood. My house is perched on a ravine where I enjoy gardening and listening to the birds. Although I was born in Malaysia and moved frequently throughout my childhood, Toronto has always been home base. Toronto has a vibrant food movement characterized by strong food organizations, the Toronto Food Policy Council, and diverse neighbourhoods. Being connected to these organizations and this work has anchored my work and passion over the years. When I first settled in Toronto as an adult in 1997, I began to explore the many community gardens scattered across the city and was deeply influenced by the biocultural diversity of those spaces.
Early in my studies and career I saw food as a great connector. I was interested in the environment, globalization, and equity across local-global contexts, and through food was able to connect these multiple issues and see them as interrelated. My work over the years has involved starting a certified organic rooftop farm and heritage seeds and garden supplies company, as well as working for FoodShare Toronto, Sustain Ontario, and the Toronto Food Policy Council. My studies enabled me to connect this local work in Canada to global issues such as trade, agricultural biodiversity, and food sovereignty. Through my current work with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food I am able to work on agroecology, health, climate and true cost accounting as related to sustainable, equitable food systems, informed by partners from many countries and perspectives. I take great delight in growing a few herbs on my shady deck, visiting the local farmers market, and cooking beautiful meals for my appreciative family.
My ideas about food sovereignty were deeply shaped by the People’s Food Policy Project.
This process engaged 3,500 people over three years to come up with A People’s Food Policy for Canada. This was a grassroots response to the crises in our food systems – millions hungry, millions obese, declining numbers of farmers and fishers. The People’s Food Policy offers a menu of ideas that can put us on the right path. The work was deeply inspired by La Via Campesina, translated to the Canadian context.
I have had a long-standing collaboration with Deborah Barndt. As a graduate student, I worked on the Tomasita Project. Deb was my PhD supervisor. Together we have explored food systems from Toronto, Ontario, to Mexico. As co-editor of the Legacies book, I am deepening relationships with friends and colleagues old and new, as well as my understanding of the food system. I am excited to share this creative approach to exploring and discussing the food issues with others. At this critical time for our planet it is imperative that we connect across cultures and communities, address historical injustices, and explore pathways toward reconciliation with each other and with the earth.