Food Insecurity and the Amazing Work of ARC in Halifax
Provided by Diana Dibblee, RD
As we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend, I reflected on the many Nova Scotians and others in our country and around the world, that didn't have enough to eat at their table. Turkey, stuffing, vegetables and apple pie are favorite foods found in our homes at this time of year, we have much to be thankful for. However, not every family in Nova Scotia has the same privilege as mine. I pondered what I can do to affect positive change to the huge challenge of food insecurity. I have volunteered at soup kitchens, I feed my hungry students breakfast, I donate finances and food to our local food banks, I visit valley farms, I buy local. These are pieces of a much larger and more complex puzzle surrounding access to healthy and affordable food for all. I asked, how can I learn more about food insecurity here in Nova Scotia?
It is important to note the amazing array of research at ARC, the Food Action Research Center at Mount Saint Vincent University. Led by Patty Williams, (a passionate professor I had the pleasure of learning from), her team leads projects here and across Canada supporting food insecurity issues. From their informative and resourceful website, it states that ”Food Arc is committed to research and action to build food security in Nova Scotia and beyond. FoodARC's work is supported by four main beliefs: research, building capacity, sharing knowledge and advocacy and policy change" (October, 2015).
A recent publication found on ARC's website entitled "Making Food Matter, Strategies for Activating Change Together" (check out their website www.foodarc.ca, 2015) engaged our community and brought together many groups that work to affect change and take action to food security in our province. In this comprehensive study, it was found that only "10. 8% of Nova Scotians are involved in local agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting and manufacturing". We know from the media that a large number of our local citizens rely on the food banks (17.5% experienced food insecurity in 2012). ARC found that only 13% of funds spent on food in NS actually make it back to the farms! This study is an incredible read and I highly recommend it for those dietitians who are working with local communities to support change in this area.
As noted from the same ARC research report, there is a group that came together to work from 2010-2015 to engage in participatory research to affect change in food insecurity in NS. I look forward to reading about their research findings and refer you to the ARC website for other publications, great resources, and other important documents that support our work as dietitians including the Report "Can Nova Scotians afford to eat healthy?" (2012, www.foodarc.ca). I know we value the food groups and the importance of eating a healthy diet with a variety of foods. However, this is simply not possible for many. Food ARC has been working diligently for over a decade supporting food insecurity research, policy and advocacy. At this time of year or any, I know it is important to realize how food and access to it, is everyone's affair. I also refer you to foodthoughtful.ca for a workbook on food insecurity and video that outlines some ideas and supports for those with food security challenges. Food Secure Canada is also another great resource along with the Food Action Team at the Ecology Action Center. We are fortunate to have so many experts working in this area, let's team up to support more change!