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