Peterborough Public Health Asks Residents to Help Shape Canada’s National Food Policy

August 17, 2017 – National Solutions Needed as Studies Show Food Insecurity Persists Despite Extensive Local Efforts to Reduce Poverty

Peterborough Public Health wants residents to help shape Canada’s national food policy to ensure every Canadian has access to nutritious and safe food to be healthy.

“Our community has dedicated a great deal of energy and resources to ending local food insecurity, and yet evidence shows that local efforts are not enough,” said Carolyn Doris, RD, Public Health Nutritionist. “We need action at the national level to address the complex issues of the food system that perpetuate poverty and food insecurity and prevent people from being able to access healthy food.”

Ms. Doris noted there are two ways residents can voice their input into Canada’s national food policy.  Everyone is encouraged to join Maryam Monsef Member of Parliament, Peterborough-Kawartha for a Community Conversation for A Food Policy for Canada from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the Douro Community Centre.  Find out more information about the event here. For those more comfortable sharing their ideas online, the Government of Canada has set up a website entitled “A Food Policy for Canada” available at https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/food-policy.html.

Currently, Peterborough has a higher rate of food insecurity than seen in most other parts of Ontario and Canada.  Cancer Care Ontario reports that those living in the local health unit area experience the highest level (16.3%) in Ontario while PROOF, the national food insecurity research group, reports that the Peterborough census metropolitan area (CMA) has the highest level (17.6%) of 27 major CMAs in Canada.  These numbers are tied in part to the unaffordability of housing.  In Peterborough, 49% of renters face unaffordable housing, according to the Affordable Housing Action Committee.

A newly-released academic book, Nourishing Communities: From Fractured Food Systems to Transformative Pathways, reflects on almost a decade of collaborations around community food systems across and beyond Canada.   The chapter, “Connecting Food Access and Housing Security: Lessons from Peterborough, Ontario,” by researchers Patricia Ballamingie, Peter Andrée, Mary Anne Martin, and Julie Pilson reiterates that the primary root of both food insecurity and housing insecurity remains inadequate income.  The authors considered food access and housing security in Peterborough by exploring  government policy at multiple levels, the work of local community-based initiatives, and existing research on initiatives across North America that simultaneously focus on housing insecurity and food insecurity.  Because food insecurity and housing insecurity are closely tied through household income, the layout of cities, and the way human needs are valued in cities, the authors argued that the two issues need to be addressed together.

The authors concluded that “community-based innovation in relation to food and housing must be accompanied by stronger action by provincial and federal governments to be commensurate with the scale of the problems—something that the case study of Peterborough really brings to the fore.”

This finding concurs with Peterborough Public Health’s annual Limited Incomes report.  It perennially demonstrates that social assistance and minimum wage rates challenge people to afford both housing and healthy food.

“When faced with this choice, people must choose housing – the less flexible of the two – leaving them to cut corners on healthy diets,” explained Ms. Doris. “Community food access, emergency housing access, food skills programs, and housing supports are important, but there is no replacement for a better income.”

More information about the book can be found at: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-57000-6

9 in 10 Canadians see no progress being made on food insecurity, poll finds

(From Community Food Centres Canada)

Individuals looking to government to take concrete action

TORONTO, June 19, 2017 /CNW/ – As policymakers, experts, and stakeholders prepare to make their way to Ottawa this week for the A Food Policy for Canada Summit, many Canadians have food insecurity on their minds, according to a recent Ipsos poll on food insecurity, health, and poverty in Canada commissioned by Community Food Centres Canada, a national nonprofit that increases access to healthy food in low-income communities and promotes food skills and civic engagement.

According to the poll, 91 per cent of Canadians think food insecurity is a persistent problem in our country, a problem that 41 per cent believe has worsened in the last decade. And Canadians want to see solutions: 74 per cent believe that government has a responsibility to take action to ensure everyone has access to healthy, affordable food.

“Canadians are telling us loud and clear that we need to do better,” said Nick Saul, President and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada. “We know that the best way to reduce food insecurity is to increase people’s incomes. We currently have National Food Policy and National Poverty Reduction Strategy processes unfolding in parallel at the federal level, and we need to make sure that they both speak to this issue – and to each other.”

According to the PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research project, four million Canadians are food insecure. Food insecurity negatively affects physical and mental health, and costs our health-care system significantly. Lack of household income is the most important predictor of food insecurity.

Increasing access to affordable food is one of the four focus areas of the National Food Policy. The others are improving health and food safety, growing more high-quality food, and conserving our soil, water, and air. The public consultation phase of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, which is being led by Employment and Social Development Canada, is wrapping up at the end of June. The timing for the development of a strategy and implementation plan has not yet been announced.

“We need to ensure that reducing food insecurity and improving the lives of vulnerable Canadians stays at the forefront of both of these important conversations,” says Saul. “At the same time, with so many ministries involved in the National Food Policy, there is an important opportunity to surface new solutions that can break down silos and address the complex issues affecting different parts of our food system – solutions that could include community responses to food insecurity, a national school lunch program, and support for small farmers.”

The Ipsos poll also asked Canadians about areas where this type of multi-sectoral approach could be useful — for example, addressing Canadians’ declining levels of food literacy and finding innovative approaches to promoting healthier diets and reducing chronic disease. It showed that Canadians are interested in new approaches, including solutions that would put more affordable fruits and vegetables on the plates of low-income individuals. 91% of Canadians said they would support a government subsidy program that would provide fruit and vegetable vouchers to people living on low incomes as a way to address diet-related illness.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 29 and April 3, 2017, on behalf of Community Food Centres Canada. For this survey, a sample of 1,002 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online via Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval.  The poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had all Canadians been polled.

Community Food Centres Canada builds and supports vibrant, food-focused organizations that bring people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food for all. Find out more at www.cfccanada.ca.

To view the poll results, click here.

Ontario Food Security Strategy- Have Your Voice Heard

On April 19, 2017, the Ontario government, through the Poverty Reduction Strategy Office, announced that they would be seeking input on the development and shaping of a Food Security Strategy.  The province is supporting access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food for everyone in Ontario.   The long-term vision of the province is be a province where every person is food secure, to support them in leading healthy and active lives”.

A Discussion Paper:  Building Ontario’s First Food Security Strategy has been released and provides more information.  The Strategy proposes 4 broad focus areas that include:

  1. Empowered communities with custom-made solutions.  Food security challenges and solutions differ across the province. Communities need tools to help mobilize solutions and supports to individuals and communities based on their needs.
  2. Integrated food initiatives that use knowledge to drive collective impact.  We recognize the need for a shared vision, clear goals, common metrics and a set of connected, mutually reinforcing activities based on the best available knowledge. We can increase food security in our province by working together towards a shared vision.
  3. Food Security is about more than food.  Income, the cost of food and other basic necessities matter. There are lots of ways to increase economic access and reduce the frequency of trading off one basic need against others at the household level.
  4. Driving innovation.  To tackle significant challenges and issues we need new ways to get to solutions. We will support, encourage and learn from creative, innovative disruptors who will help us find them.

Nourish and the Peterborough Food Action Network hosted an event, Hunger Bites: Putting Eating on the Agenda on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 to bring local voices together to inform a response on the proposed Strategy.  Thanks to everyone who attended.

Please take the opportunity to provide your thoughts before the consultation ends on May 31, 2017.  Nourish has pulled information together and made emailing a response to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Office easy by visiting http://nourishproject.ca/hunger-bites.  Please take the opportunity to have your voice heard on this important opportunity.

 

 

Learning Opportunities

Webinars and live-streaming conference presentations have become a great way to hear renowned specialists in the area of food insecurity and food systems.  Here is a link to some recent presentations or webinars that will be of interest to Peterborough Food Action Network members.  Please share with others you think may be interested.

 

1.PROOF Conference

PROOF – Food Insecurity Policy Research hosted a national conference, Advancing Food Insecurity Research in Canada at the University of Toronto on November 17 and 18, 2016.  Links to the plenary presentations and copies of slides are available here.

How is Food Insecurity Defined and Socially Constructed as a Policy Problem in Canada?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ndW2sKxtxY

Presenters: Herb Emery (University of New Brunswick), Craig Gundersen (University of Illinois), Catherine Mah (Memorial University), Lynn McIntyre (University of Calgary), Valerie Tarasuk (University of Toronto)

Insights from Other Countries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F7UxQCed6o

Presenters: Colleen Heflin (University of Missouri), Rachel Loopstra (University of Oxford), James Ziliak (University of Kentucky)

The Social Construction of Food Insecurity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2bLG923Cfs

Presenters: Elizabeth Dowler (University of Warwick), Elaine Power (Queen’s University), Janet Poppendieck (City University of New York)

Using Research to Inform Advocacy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSLUxKX81CM

Presenters: Diana Bronson (Food Secure Canada), Mary Ellen Prange (Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH), Lauren Goodman (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK))

Future Research Directions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuidBaL4R2Y

Discussants: Lynn McInytre (University of Calgary), Elaine Power (Queen’s University), Valerie Tarasuk (University of Toronto)

 

2 a) Food Insecurity Measurement in Canada: Interpreting the Statistics

A webinar was hosted by the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada on February 8, 2017 entitled Food Insecurity Measurement in Canada: Interpreting the Statistics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUWyRvhWd1E

Presenters:  Valerie Tarasuk, PhD – Professor at University of Toronto and principal investigator of PROOF, Suzanne Galesloot, MSA, RD – Public Health Nutrition Provincial Lead at Alberta Health Services and Tracy Woloshyn, RD – Public Health Nutritionist at York Region Public Health

2 b) Food Insecurity Measurement in Canada:  Who is vulnerable to household food insecurity and what does this mean for policy and practice?

This second webinar, hosted by the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada on April 13, 2017 looked more closely at what drives vulnerability to household food insecurity in Canada.

Presenters:   Valerie Tarasuk, PhD – Professor at University of Toronto and principal investigator of PROOF, Lynn McIntyre MD – Professor Emerita at University of Calgary and PROOF investigator, Pat Vanderkooy, RD – Public Affairs Manager, Dietitians of Canada.

2 c) How does food insecurity relate to health and what are the implications for health care providers?
This 3rd webinar, hosted by the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada on May 18, 2017, examined evidence of the impact of food insecurity on individuals’ mental and physical health and the financial burden food insecurity poses for our healthcare system.
Presenters:  Presenters:   Valerie Tarasuk, PhD – Professor at University of Toronto and principal investigator of PROOF, Lynn McIntyre MD – Professor Emerita at University of Calgary and PROOF investigator, Carlota Basualdo-Hammond, MSc, MPH, RD – Executive Director, Nutrition Services, Alberta Health Services.
3.Nourishing Communities  – Centre for Sustainable Food Systems Webinar Series

Social and Informal Economy of Food:  Eastern Ontario Webinar on March 1, 2017

Presentations on DIG – Durham Integrated Growers for  a Sustainable Community (featuring PFAN member Mary Anne Martin!), Black Duck Wild Rice (James Whetung of Curve Lake First Nation and Paula Anderson, PhD student in Indigenous Studies, Trent University), Hidden Harvest, Ottawa,  and Ontario East Alternative Land Use Services.

http://recordings.blindsidenetworks.com/carleton/93627782975adfcccc2519bb6e809f7032aa3e69-1488377807778/presentation/

Social and Informal Economy of Food – Northwestern Ontario on March 14, 2017

Presentation topics:  Willow Springs Creative Centre, Foraging as a Social Economy in Northern Ontario: A Case Study of Aroland First Nation, Arthur Schupp Wild Foods, Nipigon annual blueberry festival, and the Algoma Highlands Blueberry Farm, Bearskin Lake First Nation, Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op

http://recordings.blindsidenetworks.com/carleton/93627782975adfcccc2519bb6e809f7032aa3e69-1489501850481/presentation/

Social and Informal Economy of Food – Atlantic Canada and Northwest Territories  on March 15, 2017

Presentations topics: Seed Saving in Atlantic Canada (Seeds of Diversity and partner organizations), FarmWorks Investment Co-op,  JustUs! Centre for Small Farms, Kakisa, NT

http://recordings.blindsidenetworks.com/carleton/93627782975adfcccc2519bb6e809f7032aa3e69-1489590424386/presentation/

 

4.Strengthening Ontario’s Food System:  A Collaborative Approach

Hosted by the Ontario Public Health Association and Nutrition Resource Centre on March 9, 2017

 

5.Panel Discussion at Ryerson University  on April 6, 2017

Food Banks:  What do they do now?  What can they in the near future?  What can’t they do?  What can we do?

Welcome by Dr. Fiona Yeudall, Ryerson University and chaired by  Councillor Joe Mihevc, Chair, Toronto Board of Health

Guest Panelists:

  • Andy Fisher, Author of the controversial new book from MIT Press: Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups
  • Valerie Tarasuk, Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Principal Investigator, PROOF
  • Cecilia Rocha, Director, Ryerson School of Nutrition
  • Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest Food Bank
  • Merryn Maynard, Program Coordinator, Meal Exchange

http://ryecast.ryerson.ca/vod3/WIN_170407-100929_gMhA3/Flat_Apr0617-230152_VIDEW.mp4

6.  Taking Action on the Root Causes of Food Insecurity:  Inadequate Income and Food Insecurity

This webinar was hosted by the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health on April 18, 2017.

Food insecurity has physical, social, and mental health consequences. The level of household food insecurity is not only an indicator of how well adults and children are doing economically, it is also a social determinant of health equity. As the root cause of food insecurity is poverty, it would seem that the solutions would be income-focused. Yet public health practice is often focused on food skills and charity program models, which provide food access and support but do not address the material deprivation that creates food insecurity.  This webinar included the role of public health in social justice issues, what public health programs that address the root causes of food insecurity can look like, the role public health can play in calculating a basic income rate and advocating for income-based policy change and examples of public health working in partnership with community organizations to identify and address risk factors for food insecurity in vulnerable neighborhoods.

Presenters included: Tracy Woloshyn, Public Health Dietitian, York Region Public Health Services (Ontario),  Christine Johnson, Health Equity Lead, Nova Scotia Health Authority and Meghan Martin, Community Health Specialist, Fraser Health Authority (British Columbia)

 

PFAN Meeting Highlights – Feb 16/17

  1. Mary Ann Martin presented on her PhD research on low-income mothers in Peterborough. Mothers must often wear 3 hats – the good mother hat, the consumer hat and the participant hat. Household food work is still feminized and low-income mothers spend more time accessing food. A disconnect between what a mother wants to feed her child and what is feasible leads to food insecurity, judgment from others and having to compromising dignity. There will be upcoming opportunities for PFAN members to discuss next steps and recommendations. Contact Mary Anne at marymartin2@trentu.ca to further discuss her research findings.
  2. If you would like to connect with Mary Ann to discuss her research further her email is marymartin2@trentu.ca
  1. Basic Income Peterborough Network and Nourish continue to gather people’s stories about “what a Basic Income would mean to me”. If you would like to participate in one of these videos, connect with Joëlle at JFavreau@ywcapeterborough.org
  1. The draft Food Charter was reviewed. If you have any other thoughts or ideas for next steps, contact Carolyn Doris at cdoris@peterboroughpublichealth.ca
  1. Meetings for PFAN Workgroups are being organized for March 2017. If you’re interested in being involved with a workgroup, contact Carolyn at cdoris@peterboroughpublichealth.ca.   If interested in Nourish Working Groups, contact Joëlle at JFavreau@ywcapeterborough.org.

Proposed dates include:

  • Need Food – Thursday, March 2, 2017,
  • Get Involved – March 8 or 9th and
  • Create Change – Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
  1. Seeds of Change will be hosting a Community Dinner on March 29. Volunteers are needed on March 27, 28 and 29.  Donations will be accepted.  For more information, contact Elisha at  elisha@seedsofchangeptbo.org.
  1. Nourish is hosting a number of events including Broth Making (February 21 & 22), Pickling Root Crops (Feb. 27), and a Community Cultivator Training Series (Feb. 23, March 9 and March 23). To register visit http://nourishproject.ca/events

  2. Seedy Sunday will be held on Sunday March 12, 2017 from noon to 5pm at Emmanuel East United Church, 534 George Street North, Peterborough. For more information visit http://urbantomato.ca/learn/seedy-sunday-peterborough/

  3. The City of Peterborough will be gathering public feedback on Urban Hens until February 24, 2017. Paper copies of the survey are available in the lobby of City Hall, 500 George Street North.
  4. The Nourish Food Series on May 16th will focus on sustainable diets with Barbara Seed, a Registered Dietitian from British Columbia who worked on the Qatar sustainable food guidelines.

A Sustainable Diet for You Can Lead to a Healthier Planet for All of Us

The following article by Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health and Peterborough Food Action Network Chair was recently publishing in The Peterborough Examiner.  It is anticipated that “sustainable diets” are a topic we’ll hear more about in 2017.

 

After the year-end holiday binge, we humans become remorseful and tend to over-react by severely restricting our caloric intake or subjecting ourselves to so-called “detoxifying” cleanses as a way to purify and recharge. None of these strategies work in the long run, nor do they take a big picture view of food consumption and our future as a planet or a species. If we want to eat healthy and eat smart, what we really need to do is embrace a plant-based diet that moderates our intake of animal proteins and by doing so, shift world food production and agricultural practices towards those that will help sustain our planet. We need “sustainable” diets.

The timing for change might be right: Health Canada has recently announced a Healthy Eating Strategy that promises to review our Canada’s Food Guide, among other things. Already noted is the need to base any new dietary guidelines on evidence and information beyond the basic level of nutrition and individual health. As well as basic nutritional science, Health Canada has promised to consider food security, the environment, and the health and wellbeing of more vulnerable groups like indigenous populations that have suffered from exposure to western diets.

Environmentally sustainable diets and guidelines are not new, but are certainly complex and need consideration to reduce environmental burdens within the food system. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines sustainable diets as “those diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources.”

So far, Qatar and Brazil are leading the way and can offer Canada some ideas. Introduced in 2015, the middle-eastern state of Qatar’s new dietary guidelines includes a section entitled “Eat Healthy While Protecting the Environment.” These sustainability-based guidelines includes recommendations to eat a plant-based diet, reduce food waste, choose local and regionally produced foods, conserve water, and serve fresh homemade foods rather than processed or purchased ones.

Qatar’s dietary guidelines recognize that the production and consumption of food (including processing, packaging, transportation and waste disposal) impact the environment and also deplete water. They raise concerns about solid waste generation and the depletion of fish stocks as well. Their new dietary guidelines note that most water used by humans is incorporated into food (e.g., pesticide/fertilizer production, animal uses, food processing) and that in general, plant-based foods (i.e., fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains) use less water in their production and have lower greenhouse gas emissions than animal-based foods. Supporting documents note that “overconsumption of food and eating highly processed and packaged low nutrient foods also increases water use, greenhouse gas emissions and the production of waste.”

Besides advising consumers in Qatar to limit sugar, salt and fat, the protection of the environment is highlighted. Included tips are just as relevant in Canadian society, as are Brazil’s advice to avoid “ultra-processed” foods such as packaged snacks, soft drinks and instant noodles. Besides being harmful to our health, Brazil warns that the means of production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of these ultra-processed foods “damage culture, social life, and the environment.”

Canada is a major producer of pulses, such as lentils and beans, which are sustainable and nutritious alternatives to meat. The FAO considers pulses to be “climate smart.” We are already seeing the impact of climate change in Peterborough, with severe weather on the rise, and a 2016 drought that stressed out local farmers and depleted water tables. Considering the importance of sustainable diets, food industry’s production of ultra-processed foods, and development of new Dietary Guidelines for Canada, 2017 may be the time to rethink whether all foods really do fit into healthy and sustainable eating pattern.

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra is medical officer of health at Peterborough Public Health.

City of Peterborough Launches Urban Hen Survey

As anticipated after advocacy in 2016, the City of Peterborough is now seeking input on revisions to an Animal By-law that would allow City residents to keep chickens or urban hens in residential areas.

City residents are invited to participate in an on-line public survey or complete a paper copy (available in the lobby of City Hall, 500 George Street North).  Surveys will be available until Friday, February 24 at 4:30pm.

Additional comments on the proposed by-law can also be emailed to bylaw@peterborough.ca.

An article on the public survey was also published in the Peterborough Examiner on Feb. 3, 2017.

Please feel free to pass this information along to interested citizens.

PFAN Meeting Highlights – January 19/17

  1. The minutes from the last meeting on December 15, 2016, were approved, click here to view them.
  1. The One Roof Community Diner has moved to St. John’s Anglican Church.  The new Community Meal Program, One Roof Community Centre launched on January 7, 2017 with plans to be open from noon to 7pm Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, lunch on Saturdays and dinner on Sundays.  Visit warmingroom.ca/oneroof for more information.  If there are individuals hoping to volunteer, or teams that wish to sponsor or volunteer for a specific meal (either once or on a regular basis), please contact Casey Watson at casey@warmingroom.ca.
  1. The Peterborough Basic Income Network is hosting a local consultation on the proposed Ontario Basic Income Pilot.  After releasing a discussion paper on basic income, the provincial government wants to hear what you think about basic income and how a pilot project in Ontario should work.  The Basic Income We Want:  Dinner and Community Discussion will take place on Thursday January 26, 2017 from 5:00-7:30pm at Seeds of Change, 534 George Street North, Peterborough.  Click here for more information.  If you are not able to attend, the discussion paper, Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario, prepared by former Senator Hugh Segal, is available for review and responses to a public survey can be completed (closing date : January 31, 2017).
  1. The Peterborough Examiner recently published an editorial by PFAN Chair, Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, regarding sustainable diets, you can read it here.
  1. Joëlle provided an update on Nourish at today’s meeting.  With recent grant funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Community Food Centres of Canada (Good Food Organizations initiative), Nourish will expand to four sites in total:  Nourish Peterborough, Nourish Lakefield, Nourish Havelock and Nourish Curve Lake.  If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved, please contact Joëlle at JFavreau@ywcapeterborough.org.
  1. Seedy Sunday will take place on Sunday, March 12, 2017 from 12-5pm at the Emmanuel United Church East, 534 George Street.  For more details, contact Jill Bishop at growing@nourishproject.ca.
  1. Garlic Pest Research – Learn about the outcomes of a 3-year community-based research project – a collaboration between the Haliburton County Garlic Growers Association, Haliburton Farmer’s Market and U-Links.  This event takes place on March 4 at 1:30 in Haliburton (location TBD).  For more information, and to register, contact coordinator@farmsatwork.ca or call 705-743-7671.
  1. OMAFRA Soil Survey Project – OMAFRA has begun to update Ontario soil maps.  The soils evaluation commenced in Peterborough County this fall with many landowners and farmers offering their properties for soil assessment.  Hear more about this project and what the team has learned thus far.  The event will be co-hosted by OMAFRA, Farms at Work and the Peterborough County Agricultural Advisory Committee.  This event takes place on February 16 at 6:30 pm at the Douro Community Centre.

Taking part in the holiday spirit of giving – Does food charity alleviate hunger?

This blog originally appeared on HC Link and can be found here.

This is a guest blog post by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH).

With the holiday season upon us, charitable food drives are in full swing. It’s easy to throw a can of baked beans, a jar of peanut butter or a box of macaroni & cheese in the food bank bin. But does this really help to reduce hunger in our communities?

To start, let’s clarify some terms. ‘Hunger’ is a feeling of discomfort from not eating enough food.  ‘Food insecurity’ is inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints.  Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity. People experiencing food insecurity:

  • worry about having enough food
  • do not have suitable quality or variety of food, or
  • have reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to lack of food. (This extreme is how we commonly use the term ‘hunger’ when we mean severe food insecurity).

Food insecurity is a significant social and public health problem in Ontario.  In 2013, 1.6 million Ontarians or one in eight households did not have enough money to buy food. Click here for more information on how food insecurity is defined and measured in Canada.

How have communities responded to the problem of food insecurity?

With the gradual erosion of social programs, a variety of community-based charitable food programs have emerged. There are now food banks in every province and territory, with a network of almost 5,000 emergency food programs including food banks, soup kitchens and various meal and snack programs.

Food charity is very much a part of the problem of food insecurity in rich societies. While charitable food programs may provide short-term relief of hunger, they do not reduce food insecurity at all. Food charity is ineffective due to the following reasons:

  • undermines people’s dignity
  • has limited reach – 3 out of 4 food insecure households do not go to food banks
  • has limited operating hours and restricts the number of visits and the amount of food provided
  • does not meet people’s daily need for nutritious food

Food insecurity is a symptom of an income problem; it is not a problem that can be solved by redistribution of food by charities no matter how much we try to build better food banks. In fact, food banks are counterproductive because their existence creates the illusion that food insecurity is being taken care of in the community.  We’ve become so conditioned to raising more money and getting more food on to food bank shelves that we lose sight of poverty being the root cause of food insecurity. The prevalence of food charity allows governments to neglect their obligations to ensure income security for Canadians, leaving community-based charities attempting to fill the gap.

The media perpetuates this problem by drawing attention to food drives. By packaging a food drive as an integral part of the festive season, food insecurity is framed as an issue for charity, not politics, strengthening the public perception that food charity is acceptable, necessary and adequate to address the problem of food insecurity. High profile, public food drives use messaging that reinforces the notion that food charity makes a difference in the lives of those living with food insecurity. Calling on the public to participate in food drives in an effort to ‘give back to the community’, ‘join the fight against hunger’ and ‘participate in the spirit of holiday cheer’ feeds into the age-old philosophical ideal of feeding the hungry. High profile community members, such as politicians or celebrities, are often used to reinforce these messages and create a bigger media story.

If food charity is not the solution to food insecurity, then what is?

All sectors have a role to play in promoting income security as an effective response to food insecurity.

The media could focus on supporting campaigns and covering news stories raising awareness about the root cause of food insecurity, which is poverty, such as on implementing a basic income guarantee, a living wage, and affordable housing and child care policies.

Individuals, community groups, and organizations can support ‘up-stream’ efforts, such as:

  • Becoming a member of, donating to, or volunteering with Basic Income Canada Network
  • Donating or volunteering with national, provincial or local poverty reduction advocacy groups, such as Make Poverty History or Canada Without Poverty
  • Donating to or becoming a member of food advocacy groups, such as Food Secure Canada
  • Contacting or meeting with local politicians at all levels about their concerns with the food charity response to food insecurity and the potential benefits of a basic income guarantee
  • Supporting campaigns and signing petitions for adequate income security, affordable social housing and child care, enhanced mental health services, and development of national and provincial food policies

Federal and provincial governments must consider policy options that will enhance income security and reduce poverty levels to alleviate food insecurity.

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The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH) is the independent and official voice of Registered Dietitians working in Ontario’s public health system. OSNPPH provides leadership in public health nutrition by promoting and supporting member collaboration to improve the health of Ontario residents through the implementation of the Ontario Public Health Standards.

The OSNPPH Food Security Workgroup has developed a position statement (and French translation) and an accompanying infographic (and French translation) to increase awareness about the growing problem of household food insecurity in Ontario and the urgent need to advocate for effective responses. Since its release, the Position Statement has received official endorsements from these organizations and individuals. If you would like to endorse the Position Statement, please complete the form available here.

Public Realm Projects in Peterborough’s Downtown Area

The City of Peterborough is asking for the public’s ideas  on three Public Realm Projects in Downtown Peterborough – Charlotte Street East, Charlotte Street West and the Urban Park (currently the Louis St Parking lot).  Members of the public are invited to answer an on-line survey, or attend the Public Information Centre at City Hall on Thursday, December 8 from 4-8pm.

 

To learn more about the proposed projects visit:  http://www.peterborough.ca/Business/Studies/Charlotte_Street_Streetscape.htm or watch this this video.

 

Please consider attending and sharing your thoughts about how to increase access to healthy food for all and to integrate locally grown food into these projects.