Right now, in hundreds of homes in Niagara, children, men and women are waking up to the anxiety and the realization that they are not sure where their next meal is. Tragically, many of those same people are going to bed on an empty stomach. Because of poverty, because of limited accessibility or mobility, many in Niagara are experiencing food insecurity this very day. Whether caused by poverty, poor urban planning and development, or because of COVID, too many people in our part of Southern Ontario are suffering.
Start Me Up Niagara hopes to begin the conversation around food insecurity and how some in our community live in a food desert by highlighting this issue.
What is Food Security?
"Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals' ability to access it. According to the United Nations'
Committee on World Food Security, food security is defined as the means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life." (Source: Wikipedia)
Food insecurity may be long-term or short-lived. "Several factors may impact someone's ability to access sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, including income, employment, race/ethnicity, and disability. The risk for food insecurity increases when money to buy food is limited or not available." (Source: HealthyPeople.gov)
What Conditions Create Food Insecurity?
Neighbourhood circumstances may affect physical access to food. For example, people living in urban areas, rural areas, and low-income neighbourhoods may have limited access to full-service supermarkets or grocery stores. This is particularly true when public transportation is limited or unavailable, or stores have restricted hours due to provincial or regional lockdown requirements.
Besides poverty driving some of the inaccessibility of food in our community, other factors play a fundamental role. Other causes of food insecurity in Canada include; lack of access to farming lands, land grabbing and development, unfair trade rules, a surge in the population, the reallocation of agricultural land for agrofuels, natural disasters and climate change, wastage of food, commodity trading, and market dominance by corporate monopolies and duopolies.
What Does a Food Desert Look Like?
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Protection's website, healthypeople.gov, "Communities that lack affordable and nutritious food are commonly known as 'food deserts.' Convenience stores and small independent stores are more common in food deserts than full-service supermarkets or grocery stores. These stores may have higher food prices, lower quality foods, and less variety of foods than supermarkets or grocery stores."
Food is a human right! While poverty is the most notable driver of food insecurity in Canada, it is worsened by limited food access for many in our community.
The Effects of Food Insecurity on Children
Children who are food insecure are more likely to require hospitalization. They are at a "higher risk of chronic health conditions like anemia and asthma. They also have frequent oral health problems. Food insecurity in children is also related to the poor physical quality of life," according to ConserveEnergyFuture.com. It prevents them from "fully engaging in daily school activities and social interaction with their peers."
Some Ways to Improve Food Security for Our Community
Reduce Food Waste
- Food is wasted mainly because of inadequate preparations, bumpy or bad roads, over-selective customers, and insufficient storage facilities. Suppose storage facilities are improved, and there are adequate preparations for how the food will be used. In that case, less food will be wasted, and there will be a more food secure community.
Improve Trade Policies
- Some farmers fail to feed the community because of unfair trade policies. Corporate giants have already stepped in and commercialized food, making it harder for small-scale farmers to have their products in the market. Governments should, therefore, improve such policies and make it fair for everyone to participate.
- Focusing on a single food crop or staple can produce terrible food insecurity reduction outcomes. To improve our community's food security, there needs to be training on the importance of diversified and healthy diets for better nutrition.