Are You Hungry for Food Security?
By Meredith Bessey and Aliya Jamal, FoodARC
According to research from the University of Toronto, nearly 4 million Canadians experienced food insecurity in 2011. Over a quarter of those people were children. This is clearly a huge issue in our country. What exactly is food insecurity? At FoodARC, we define a household as food insecure if members have difficulty accessing, or worry about not having enough food for a healthy, active life. Community food security is another important concept – this exists when all members of a community have access to enough healthy, safe food through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice.
What does our research say about food security in Nova Scotia? FoodARC just wrapped up a five-year participatory action research project called ACT for CFS [http://foodarc.ca/project-pages/results-publications/], which looked at the factors that contribute to community food security in Nova Scotia. We collected data from NS as a whole, and generated four local profiles for Eastern Shelburne County, Spryfield, Pictou Landing First Nation, and Northeastern Kings County. ACT for CFS helped us understand that achieving community food security will involve multi-level policy change – from agricultural regulations to institutional procurement – but that the support and momentum for change is growing in Nova Scotia.
Another decade-long FoodARC project, Voices for Food Security in NS [http://foodarc.ca/project-pages/overview-3/], involves people across the province to collect data on the cost of a basic nutritious diet. We’ve discovered that for people living in poverty, food is often the most flexible part of their budget compared with other fixed costs. Therefore, the most reliable way to build household food security is to increase income security as well as access to affordable housing, childcare and transit.
To share this research, FoodARC has developed a game called “The Hand You’re Dealt”, to teach people about the reality of living on a fixed income and trying to eat healthfully. We’ve also launched a social media campaign [https://www.facebook.com/makefoodmatter] and a toolkit called Make Food Matter [http://foodarc.ca/makefoodmatter/] to support people who want to take action around food security.
Help make food an election issue!
With the election approaching, it is crucial that people think about food when casting their vote and that candidates have food on their minds. Food Secure Canada (FSC) is calling for the creation of a national food policy (http://campaign.foodsecurecanada.org) to ensure that all Canadians have access to healthy, just, and sustainable food. The campaign calls for action in four priority areas:
All kids in Canada’s schools have access to healthy food every day
The right to food becomes a reality for the 4 million Canadians who are now food insecure
The next generation of farmers gets the public support they need to thrive
Good food is affordable and accessible in Canada’s remote and northern communities
FSC’s campaign asks are based on what FSC heard in a Canada-wide consultation process, and much of it aligns with FoodARC’s research. New public opinion data shows that food is one of the most important issues for voters (http://campaign.foodsecurecanada.org/rising_food_prices_no_2_federal_election_issue)
How can you get involved?
Sign the petition (http://campaign.foodsecurecanada.org/sign-the-petition) for a national food policy.
Share the campaign on social media (http://campaign.foodsecurecanada.org/spread_the_word). #EatThinkVote
Ask questions about food issues at candidate debates and ask them to sign the candidate pledge (http://campaign.foodsecurecanada.org/candidate-question).
Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about how food matters to them, socially, culturally, economically, environmentally and physically.
Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about FoodARC, our research, or the upcoming election. We’d love to chat with you!