Food for thought:
Casting ballots for community health
Canada is headed to the polls on Monday, September 20. With the dual crises of climate emergency and the pandemic, voting in this federal election provides the opportunity to change course. When casting your ballot, one thing that is important to consider is how your vote can impact overall community health.
At the foundation of a healthy community is safe, consistent access to appropriate, healthy food. With food security an issue prior to the pandemic, we think that candidates should be faced with the question of how they are going to keep our communities healthy. What plans do they have to create change? How do their policies serve all communities? With the help of resources from Food Secure Canada, Community Food Centres Canada, and the United Nations, we’ve highlighted what we think are important issues to consider as you research candidates this election season.
Food security is a federal issue
Prior to the pandemic, 4.4 million Canadians were living food insecure and because of disruptions caused by this global crisis, that number has risen 39%. This means that 1 in 7 Canadians has difficulty meeting their basic right to healthy, appropriate food (Food Secure Canada).
We live in a country where people are going hungry and the folks most likely to be affected by food insecurity are BIPOC and single parent families. According to Community Food Centres Canada, food insecurity adversely affects 76% of Inuit adults, 29.8% Black Canadians, 29.2% Indigenous people, and 33.1% single mothers. Our systems are not serving these communities and election time is an opportunity to support candidates that will push for systemic change.
Food insecurity is not a problem that can be solved with food. Rather, food insecurity is a symptom of a system that is failing to serve millions of Canadians. Currently, our social services are designed to allow certain communities to fall through the cracks and that cannot be remedied with more food. What needs to happen is overall systemic change that addresses the root cause of food insecurity: a lack of adequate income.
When faced with the financial decision of buying groceries or meeting other basic needs (housing, childcare, prescriptions, the list goes on) food falls by the wayside. Better social policies can contribute to an improved quality of life by subsidizing the cost of living and freeing up funds necessary to buy food.
Question the candidates in your riding on what they’re planning to do about affordable childcare, affordable housing, and a universal healthcare system that includes mental health, dental health, and prescription coverage.
Indigenous food sovereignty
As mentioned above, BIPOC communities are adversely affected by food insecurity. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, almost half of First Nations families faced food insecurity. This was and is a problem created by colonial systems that forced people away from culturally appropriate food systems towards dependency-based food structures like importing produce (Food Secure Canada).
This is on top of the water insecurity experienced by many First Nations peoples that sees ongoing boil water advisories and a lack of funding for necessary infrastructure on Indigenous reserves.
“Food deprivation, stolen lands and interfering with access to sources of food sovereignty, along with the poisoning of the waters and lands and other destruction of habitat for traditional food, medicine and other economic sources along with the marginalization of Indigenous women and others have and continue to be part of the colonial reality in Canada.” -Food Secure Canada, Eat think vote
Indigenous food sovereignty calls for a process of growing and eating food that will strengthen our food system and allow for a meaningful connection with the land. By planting culturally appropriate foods, we can reduce dependency on trade-based food economy, improve community health, and increase and respect the connection Indigenous folks have to the land and culture. This movement to return the land does not exist in a vacuum–it is crucial that we all support this process and engage with food sovereignty as well.
These communities need appropriate access to food, water, and land. What are the candidates in your riding planning to do for the Indigenous people in our communities?
Resilient food systems = healthy communities
The pandemic shone a light on the fragility of our food systems. The supply chain between where food is grown and the grocery store shelf is too long and that’s not healthy for us or the planet. The import of food creates a large carbon footprint, one that could be decreased by shifting the focus onto small- and medium-scale food processing in Canada and mandating that grocery stores should try to fill their shelves with locally-grown and processed foods first.
We are experiencing a climate crisis and this directly impacts our food systems and food security. The way we eat is shaped by our understanding of where food comes from. When the food supply chain is so long or convoluted, there is a disconnect between what we eat and where it was grown and processed.
A healthy food system supports a healthy climate. Currently, much of our food is grown in the least environmentally friendly way possible, exploiting not only our planet but the people. If we can shift from food chains to something more akin to a food web, this way of eating will serve our food system, our population and our planet.
How are the candidates in your riding going to shorten the food chain, increase biodiversity and take on the climate crisis?
If you’re voting on September 20, look at the platforms of your candidates and consider how they address the social issues that are directly related to food security.
Find out where to vote: