When we launched Toronto Food Trucks in October 2011, I knew that the street food scene in our city was starting to gain momentum but that we still needed change at the political level for Toronto to really become a world-class city when it comes to street food.
Currently our by-laws cannot support a vibrant and diverse street food culture no matter how many entrepreneurs are standing ready.
Having worked for a former City Councillor for four years, I also knew that in order to bring an issue into focus and help make it a priority at City Council, Councillors needed to hear from their constituents.
As it turned out, a bunch of like-minded people were also thinking along the exact same lines.
Enter the Toronto Street Food Project (TSFP).
It’s Time to Cut the Red Tape Holding Back Street Food
The TSFP is a campaign to advocate for bringing delicious and diverse street food to the people of Toronto and supporting all independent entrepreneurs that want to sell it.
The TSFP is a social media-based campaign, the first of it’s kind in Toronto, enabling people to quickly and easily take action by sending letters and/or tweeting directly to their City Councillor.
The goal of the TSFP is to show Toronto City Councillors that their constituents and the people of Toronto want better access to great street food like so many other major North American cities currently enjoy.
Ultimately we want the campaign to generate the political will necessary to get some of the current rules and regulations changed for food trucks and carts.
How Does it Work?
The TFSP website has two main goals:
- To help people quickly and effortlessly contact their Councillor about the issue.
- To get people to share the campaign with their friends and followers on social media.
Over the last few months we’ve seen people tweeting about their frustration over all the red tape surrounding street food and we knew we needed to make it as easy as possible for them to do something about it.
The two ways we are doing this are with a letter and a ‘tweet your Councillor’ feature.
The main component of the TSFP website is the letter to Councillors. The website allows you to figure out which Ward you live in and who your Councillor is and then select accordingly from a drop-down menu.
The letter is pre-written for you and indicates that you’re one of your Councillor’s constituents and that you would like to see this issue addressed at Council. You also have the opportunity to add any additional comments you wish.
After that you simply hit the send button and the letter goes to your Councillor from your email address.
When I was building the website for the campaign, I didn’t want it to be designed like every other petition-style site you see online these days. We also knew that in order for the campaign to be a success and get traction beyond the food community, we needed to try and harness the power of social media.
So we came up with the ‘Tweet Your Councillor Wall’.
We have made it dead easy for you to tweet your Councillor. Simply click on his or her picture and a window will pop-up with a strategically pre-written tweet. You can send it as is or edit the contents of the tweet to your liking.
We are really excited for this feature and hope people use it.
If you’re tired of delicious and diverse street food only being available on television, then this is your chance to do something about it.
Who’s Involved in the TSFP?
The TSFP is made up of a coalition of members from different organizations brought together by the same vision for Toronto street food.
Included in our working group are:
- Mark Macdonald, Founder of Toronto Food Trucks
- Marianne Moroney, Executive Director of Street Food Vendor Association; owner and operator of a street food cart since 1995
- Carly Dunster, Food Lawyer, Carly Dunster Law
- Suresh Doss, Founder of Food Truck Eats & Publisher of Spotlight Toronto
- Hassel Aviles, Founder of Toronto Underground Market
- Kyla Zanardi, Youth and Public Health Advocate
- Andrea Winkler, Urban Planner
- Adam Hynam-Smith & Tamara Jensen, Owners & operators of El Gastrónomo Vegabundo food truck
- Darcy Higgins, Executive Director of Food Forward
This entire group has worked very hard over the last couple months on this campaign and I have learned so much from all of them.
We are really excited to take this campaign online and can’t wait for people to start getting involved and show their support.
A Word About A La Cart
Even though A La Cart (2008) had some good intentions and was a learning experience for the City, we must now move on with a new approach. We are advocating to relax regulatory frameworks, not create a new ones.
We have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and from the successes in other cities.
Find out more about the Toronto Street Food Project.