Looking for solutions to Canada’s growing food insecurity problem
July 13, 2023
When it all comes down to it, security means having a roof over your head and food in the fridge.
Let’s focus on food. For a shockingly high 5.8 million Canadians (as of 2021), food insecurity is a real problem. That many people, including 1.4 million kids, experienced “some form of food insecurity” two years ago, reports the CBC.
The article cites a recent study by the University of Toronto that found “15.9 per cent of households across all 10 provinces” experienced some level of food insecurity, which has got worse with the higher inflation rate of the last couple of years.
Provincial levels of food insecurity — meaning, a household has difficulty affording and obtaining food — range from a low of 13.1 per cent in Quebec to a high of 20.3 per cent in Alberta, the story notes.
The report concluded, the CBC adds, by calling on all governments “to address the vulnerability of households that are reliant on employment incomes but still unable to make ends meet, and ensure that working-aged adults not in the workforce also have sufficient incomes to meet basic needs.”
At the University of Regina, a research team is looking at ways that rural Saskatchewan can help address food insecurity, Global News reports.
The U of R’s Ebube Ogie tells Global News that concerns about food affordability are being raised thanks to inflation. But, she said, people can look to the Saskatchewan communities of Muskeg Lake and Val Marie for solutions, the report notes.
She tells Global News that “Muskeg Lake residents are becoming more self-sufficient through their local food forest, a self-sustaining, nature-inspired agricultural system that provides fruits, vegetables and other edibles, as well as medicines and cultural resources. Val Marie residents can access fresh foods from a nearby Hutterite Colony, a self-sustaining colony that produces its own food, and also rely on their personal gardens.”
There should be more effort placed on growing food locally, and purchasing it from local farmer’s markets, than on buying expensive processed goods, she notes.
“Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket and we want to see that manifested in how we live, how we produce food and how we consume food. Our goal is to end food insecurity and promote food security for everyone,” says Ogie.
In Barrie, Ontario, a company called Eat Impact is using another approach — rescuing fruit and vegetable that is close to, but not at, its expiry date and distributing it via food banks.
The company, reports the Barrie Advance, “works with local farmers to find out what’s available and at risk of going to waste.”
“Typically about 1.4 billion pounds (of food), every year in Canada, does not get eaten; it just gets thrown out. And it’s a huge problem,” Anna Stegink, founder of Eat Impact, tells the Advance.
Another possible way to reduce food insecurity would be to introduce some sort of Canadian version of food stamps, a program that has been running for many years in the U.S., reports the CBC.
Elyssa Schmier of MomsRising, a U.S. advocacy group, expresses surprise that Canada does not have a program equivalent to food stamps.
“It’s… one of the largest tools we have to combat poverty and hunger in the country,” she states in the article, speaking about food stamps.
“I know that families in Canada are struggling. It was very surprising to hear that [Canada doesn’t] have any sort of dedicated nutrition programs in place, especially to help families with children,” she adds.
The University of Victoria’s Matthew Little says programs like food stamps “shouldn’t be considered a long-term strategy” in the battle against food insecurity. Canada’s programs have tended to focus on poverty alleviation rather than directly on food supply, he explains.
Let’s hope that efforts continue to be made on making more food available to those who need it.
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Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.