Do you remember bringing heavy cans of beans, boxes of pasta and tinned tuna in your over packed schoolbag when you were younger? It was usually a donation to enter a dance or in place of a ticket to the talent show and sometimes friends birthday parties had food bank donation boxes too.
As a child I knew about food banks and understood the process of food donations, other people aren’t as fortunate as we are so sometimes we donate part of our food pantry to others who can’t afford it. It felt good to shop my kitchen cupboards for non perishables, proudly stuff them in a bag and give it to someone who needed it more than our family did.
The first time I learned about food security I was studying nutrition in university. We had lectures that revolved around food security and some classes even had compulsory outings to Feed Nova Scotia so that we could fully understand food security and appreciate all that needs to be done, at a grassroots level [and beyond], to change food security. To be food secure you have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food,
to be food insecure* is to not have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food.
I recently read a news article stating that 25% of the people living in Nunavut are food insecure. We’re living in a wealthy, healthy, privileged and developed country, we’re actually so privileged that we’ve masked the inequality that exists in our country.**
In Canada, health and wealth are correlated, the people who live the longest live in areas where most of the population smokes less, drinks less, exercises more and has higher incomes. The people who live the shortest lives in Canada often live in rural or remote areas.
Statistics Canada defined these disparities (2009), rural and remote towns and villages in northern Canada where access to affordable food is limited there is also limited access to healthcare, levels of unemployment are high, and graduates from high school and university are lower than in other provinces. The rates smoking and alcohol abuse are also higher in these rural and remote towns.
Food insecurity is rampant in Canada, in 2011–2012, 8.3% of Canadian households experienced food insecurity. In the same year, Nunavut had the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada with over four times (36.7%) the national average of food insecure homes, you should also note that life expectancy in Nunavut is the lowest in the country.
At birth, the average Canadian female (in 2016) has a life expectancy of 83.6, males of 79.3. In Nunavut, it’s 73.9 and 68.7 respectively.
One report states that food insecure households were 80% more likely to report having diabetes and 60% more likely to report high blood pressure, when compared to households that had sufficient food. There has also been an increasing number of studies that indicate children in food insecure households are more likely to experience a behavioural, emotional, and academic problems than children living in food secure households. It’s a cycle that continuously affects the whole population [not limited to] through healthcare spending (tax dollars)- Canada can’t spend less on healthcare until everyone has equal opportunities/access to health.
Food banks are kind of like a band-aid…
a necessary band-aid but band-aids don’t heal wounds or problems, they cover them. Policy intervention must take place in order to help those who are food insecure so that they can continuously have adequate food in their home. Adequate food is affordable and is nutritious. Adequate food is also food that the person knows how to prepare and has the tools to do so [and is culturally appropriate].
So why should we care about food insecurity in Canada?
Because, it isn’t socially efficient not to.
If we don’t collectively advocate for better access to food for those who need it, they won’t get it, and the cycle of poverty and inequality will continue.
And we haven’t even touched on the positive economic effect of improved population health…