The components of the FIH consist of both new and existing businesses and initiatives. The “new tenants” will bring new purpose and meaning to Fairview Mall. The “existing tenants” will support and help position this change.
Incubator kitchens provide the necessary and required (i.e. commercial grade) equipment to assist entrepreneurs and small enterprises in pursing their food-based business initiatives. In addition, staff can provide training and mentoring so that micro-enterprises can become commercialized food businesses. Products created in the incubator kitchens can be distributed and sold by other members of the FIH (i.e. restaurants, food kiosks) or can be sold outside the FIH (i.e. farmer’s markets, niche markets). Shoppers within the mall will have an opportunity to view production in the incubators, as they will be separated by traditional, windowed storefronts. Unfortunately, to ensure a high level of food safety and sanitation, shoppers will not be able to enter.
The incubator kitchens provide an excellent opportunity to support Toronto’s New Green Economy. Toronto Public Health (2008) urges the food sector to become a centerpiece of the emerging green economy. Specifically, they note the necessity to expand the City’s Food Business Incubator project. Expanding this project to Fairview Mall would help to support a wide range of start-up, community-based, social enterprise and artisanal food entrepreneurs (Toronto Public Health, 2008).
Food Business Development
In conjunction with the incubator kitchens, is a Food Business Development Program. Depending on space, this program could be located within the incubator kitchen space. This program helps those interested in starting a food production company by providing information and training on the basics of starting a business, business plan development, branding, advertising, market information, etc. Again, this supports a green economy and allows for the development of new and niche type products.
The opportunity to development new and niche type products will be particularly relevant in the coming decade. The rapidly changing demographic of Canada and Toronto will ensure a demand for locally produced ethnic foods (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). For example, the production of Halal foods has been identified as an opportunity for Canadian producers (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). In this regard, the Food Business Development Program can enhance a regional food system, while supporting cultural diversity.
The creation of a community garden within the grounds of Fairview mall would help connect the surrounding Don Valley Village neighborhood to the FIH. Further, it offers a lively food environment that will hopefully bring neighbors together. This is an important component in creating food-friendly neighborhoods (Toronto Public Health, 2008). The garden, along with the rest of the FIH provides an alternative to the traditional public services that help ensure lively neighborhoods (i.e. libraries, schools, parks and recreation centers) (Toronto Public Health, 2008). The community garden would/will likely be managed and run by community members, in conjunction with the education center.
The Education Center will provide programming to adults and elementary and high school students. Generating food literacy is essential to building a healthier, more sustainable, equitable and resilient food system (Toronto Public Health, 2008). Generation Y and Generation 6 will have a large influence on food trends (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). Making sure that these generations are food literate will ensure that healthier choices are made now and throughout their lives (Toronto Public Health, 2008). In addition, it will help to create leaders that will appreciate the health, social, environmental and economic implications of food (Toronto Public Health, 2008).
Programming at the Education center will include for example, workshops on growing, cooking and healthy eating. These workshops will be linked to other components of the FIH as to provide interactive and hands-on learning opportunities.
There is potential to use Fairview Malls’ skylights for small-scale greenhouse production. Restaurants within the FIH (and the mall) could/can purchase the grown products. It also provides another learning facility for the Education Center, and generates awareness as a result of its central location.
This has been achieved at the Galleria Mall in Cleveland, Ohio. The structural design of the mall has been used to create a year-round greenhouse. The controlled environment is conducive to growing hydroponic produce such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, mushrooms, peppers, sprouts, and flowers (Poole, 2009).
This project could/can eventually be linked to rainwater collection and composting technologies and programs.
Food Terminal Extension
The Food Terminal Extension would/will be affiliated with the current Ontario Food Terminal, located in Toronto. The Extension project would/will be used to specifically support local and local-sustainable foods (Toronto Public Health, 2008). Food brought into the Terminal would/will support the FIH, as well as Toronto’s retailers. Ultimately, this would help support the local economy and meet the growing demands for locally produced food (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005).
The Food Terminal Extension would/will require a considerable amount of space. For storage and refrigeration purposes it would/will likely need the space occupied by Fairview’s anchor stores (The Bay and Sears). Loading docks are located in at least three areas along the malls edge, which/will would allow for delivery. However, since there is no indication that these stores are failing the Food Terminal Extension might be something worth pursing in the distant future.
Links to University/Colleges
The coming generations will demand foods that are packaged, but are healthy (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). Increasingly, the public understands the health problems related to trans fats, salts and sulphites used to create packaged foods (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). This will encourage new technologies to improve packaging technologies and shelf-life.
Universities and/or colleges could/can take advantage of this opportunity by having satellite classrooms or labs at the FIH. Here new processing and packaging technologies can be tested and developed. These technologies could/can eventually be used in the incubator kitchens and Education Center.
Year-Round Farmers Market
The farmers market will act as a means of connecting smaller and mid-sized food production to a distribution network. Here, farmers will have an opportunity to showcase and sell their products. This will be available to those using the services at the FIH, as well as to farmers from the surrounding area. This will be located outside the Mall, except during the winter and fall season.
Restaurants/Food Kiosks (New)
New restaurant and food kiosks could/can be established to support other initiatives within the FIH (i.e. incubator kitchen, community garden, food terminal extension). Opportunity has been identified for restaurants and food businesses that promote ethnic cuisines, niche markets (i.e. boutique foods) and healthy eating (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). For example, healthy and homemade brownbag lunches could/can be available for quick pickup to those working, visiting and passing through the mall.
NGO/NPO & Community Groups
Non-profit organizations, nongovernmental organizations and community groups could/can use the FIH as their headquarters. These groups could/can be involved both inside and outside of the FIH. Their support and popularity could/can generate increased attention to the FIH. They knowledge and expertise could/can also help guide future initiatives and programs at the FIH.
Consumers are increasingly becoming concerned with where their food is coming from, and the overall safety of it (Agriculture & Agri-Foods Canada, 2005). Branding the FIH as well as the products development under it would/will ensure consumers that the products they were purchasing supported the local economy, had minimal impact on the environment and were made/grown in a facility that maintained a high degree of public transparency.
This imitative is similar to that of Local Food Plus, who nurtures regional food economies by certifying farmers and processors for local sustainable food production (Local Food Plus, 2009). Shoppers look specifically for products labeled by Local Food Plus so that they can support a regional food system, and impact the purchasing behaviors of food retailers.
Within Fairview Mall are doctor and optometrist offices. Other health care practitioners – including nutritionist, naturopathic doctors, dieticians, holistic nutritionists – could establish practices within the mall. Their presence would/can help address food related health issues and questions. For instance, those acquiring new skills at the Food Education Center, might want more detailed information on healthy eating. They could/can supplement the skills learned at the Center with consultations with a nutritionist or other health care practitioners. Practitioners located at kiosks could/can also provide quick consultations and information to the malls shoppers.
Restaurants/ Food Kiosks (Existing)
Existing restaurants would/will be able to procure food from the FIH’s many components (i.e. incubator kitchen, markets, and greenhouse). These existing restaurants ensure a captive market for local sustainable products. If they are committed to buying the local products produced at the FIH then everyone who buys food from that retailer is a consumer of local and sustainable foods. These food retailers will benefit from the people attracted to the new restaurants/kiosks. While the new restaurants/kiosks will benefit from the people attracted by the stability and familiarity of the existing food retailers.
Department Stores/Houseware Stores
Department stores and houseware carry equipment needed to make food (i.e. frying pans, slow cookers, food processors). This equipment may be needed to complement the new skills acquired from those taking food education classes.
Bookstore can provide additional resources for those interested in growing, preparing or simply gaining a better understanding of food. Further, the bookstores could/can be responsible for stocking any material needed for the educational programming of the FIH.