Meet Our Members: Alex Dow

alexdow

Why did you join the TFPC?

I joined the TFPC in order to better connect residents and organizations in the City’s east end (particularly Scarborough) to the work of the TFPC. I also wanted to bring the interests, concerns, and organizing currently taking place in Scarborough to the attention of the TFPC. The history of the TFPC is one that recognizes that issues related to food security affect the greater region and not just the core city, and I want to make sure that the dialogue is occurring as far across Toronto as possible. It’s important that the diversity for which Scarborough is well-known is also recognized as a key asset as we develop plans and move forward.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My role as the Program Director at Malvern Family Resource Centre allows me to see the community at a big-picture level and provide leadership where it matters on the issues that are important to the neighbourhood and to my staff team. I come from a community development background, so I work from that lens. The community development projects that the agency engages in are always the most interesting parts of my work, whether it is plans for a new urban farm, an economic development initiative on some public land, or a new skateboard park in an underutilized area of the neighbourhood. I love working with youth and the wider community to turn ideas into reality.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I would say that I am proudest of the food security work that I have started in the neighbourhood. We really are only scratching the surface of what we can do with our community members and neighbours in north-east Scarborough where my agency is located. So far we have created 20,000 ft2 of urban agriculture space, but it is the strong foundation of engaged, knowledgeable, and active residents whom continue to push for more food security initiatives in the area that always make my day.

Why does food matter to you?

Food matters because it not only nourishes community members and community building, but can actually transform communities by creating new opportunities. I really want to explore the economic development aspects of community food organizing and look at the intersection of issues of employment/underemployment, poverty, jobs, and training as they relate to food. Whether through micro-finance, crowd-funding, social enterprise, or other methods, there are lots of new and increasingly legitimate ways to utilize food to spur local economies.

What does your organization do?

Malvern Family Resource Centre is a United Way funded agency in north-east Scarborough that hosts programs and services for women, seniors, youth, and low-income families. We are currently in our 31st year of operation. We also offer Ontario Early Years programs and services within the larger Scarborough-Rouge River riding and work in partnership with 12 local elementary schools to deliver a number of after-school programs and camp opportunities. Our community development projects and food security initiatives stem from our Action for Neighbourhood Change initiative which began operating in the community in 2009. It is through a mix of effective community programs and services and neighbourhood capacity building that we are able to strengthen the social fabric in Malvern.

What else would you like to see from the TFPC?

Right now we have some really great plans. In particular, we’re fighting for urban agriculture to be expanded and supported within the city. I have a keen interest in that work and the associated benefits that it will create for communities. I would like to see us do more learning, networking, and other events in different parts of Toronto and to grow our presence and connection to a wider swath of the folks in the city.