Meet Roots Community Food Centre, this year's Layton Activism Award Winner!

Institute for Change Leaders (ICL) and the Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation are pleased to announce that Roots Community Food Centre of Thunder Bay, Ontario has been selected as the winner of this year's Jack Layton Activism Award. Roots CFC Executive Director Erin Beagle accepted the award over Zoom, live-cast in front of an in-person celebration in Toronto marking the 11th anniversary of Layton’s passing.

“Even in the most difficult times, there are so many people fighting every day to build a future of love, hope, and optimism,” says Olivia Chow. “The judges have selected an incredible winner in Roots Community Food Centre. They are making a huge difference in addressing the roots of food insecurity, and I know they would have made Jack proud.”

A small but rapidly growing organization addressing both immediate community needs as well as advocating for systemic changes, Roots CFC is focused on building a sustainable organization of activists, with solid plans for future development and strong leadership. Roots CFC uses food as a tool to connect people to one another and build belonging and dignity. Its programs are innovative and diverse: including education, employment and access to fresh foods, fruits, and vegetables at reduced prices.

At the heart of the 2022 Layton Activism Award winner is their tireless advocacy work. Their Dignified Food Access Campaign rallied organizations and individuals across Thunder Bay to fight against the root causes of food insecurity. Roots CFC is also part of a national network of 14 other organizations that all believe in “‘good food for all."

Ryan’s Hope, an organization that provides breakfast as well as a sense of community and connection to Barrie’s homeless population, was awarded an Honourable Mention by the jury. The organization was born out of the tragic loss of Ryan Nayler, a young man in Barrie, Ontario, who died from an overdose.

Following a public call for nominations, award organizers received over 100 submissions from people working for change at all levels across the country, including efforts to end homelessness, address food insecurity, help women escape domestic violence, strengthen Reconciliation; and much more. 

The winner was decided upon by an expert panel of judges from across the country with deep ties to Jack's life and work: activist and former MP Libby Davies, former Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan member Yens Pedersen, community advocate Darnel Harris, former MP Hélène Leblanc, and Jack’s former Chief of Staff Bob Gallagher.

The event also featured a panel discussion between Bob Gallagher, Jack's former Chief of Staff, and Anne McGrath, the current NDP federal Director. This discussion was moderated by Karl Belanger, Jack’s former press secretary and currently the President of the Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation.

The Layton Activism Award, part of the Layton Legacy project, carries on the late Jack Layton’s important work by recognizing and supporting activists who are powerful changemakers.

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