Dr. Godwin Ude, MBA, PhD
As a grassroots organization working among immigrants from the BIPOC communities, food insecurity is a top challenge for these vulnerable populations. Over the past six years, Kingdom Acts Foundation (KAF) Food Bank has been supporting thousands of individuals struggling with food insecurity, poverty, and unemployment. Hence, from lived expertise, we have recognized food insecurity as a precursor to many other social ills that must be quickly addressed before contributing to social insecurity.
Food insecurity – the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life – is a pressing issue in Canada that requires urgent attention. Over four million Canadians are food insecure, a number that is disproportionately higher among marginalized communities, including Blacks, Indigenous peoples, people of colour, single mothers, and immigrants. In 2021, at least 15.9% of households, or 5.8 million people across Canada’s provinces, had insecure or inadequate access to food. This figure is likely much higher for territories, particularly in Nunavut, which had a food insecurity rate of 57% in 2018. Canada needs an integrated, transformative, and systemic approach to address this issue, harnessing the combined efforts of policymakers, community leaders, businesses, and citizens.
1. Strengthening Social Safety Nets
First, the immediate concern is ensuring every citizen has sufficient income to meet their basic needs. Thus, a substantial review and enhancement of our social safety nets are necessary. This involves raising the minimum wage, strengthening Employment Insurance (EI), and exploring the potential of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). These steps could significantly decrease food insecurity rates by providing a financial cushion to those living paycheck to paycheck or facing sudden economic hardship.
2. Reforming Agricultural Policies
Next, the agricultural system requires a transformation prioritizing sustainability and local production. We need to incentivize the farming of diverse, nutritious foods and promote techniques that build climate resilience. Support for local, small-scale farmers through subsidies and capacity-building initiatives could reinvigorate our domestic food supply chain, make our communities more resilient, and reduce dependence on international food imports.
3. Enhancing Food Education
Thirdly, food literacy fosters healthy eating habits and an appreciation for local, sustainable food. Thus, integrating comprehensive food education into our schooling system from a young age should be prioritized. This education should include information on nutritional needs, cooking skills, and understanding the environmental impacts of food production and consumption.
4. Building Community Infrastructure
Lastly, we must invest in community infrastructure that directly combats food insecurity. This could include urban agriculture initiatives, such as community gardens and rooftop farms, to provide fresh produce in urban areas. The Community Food Centre Canada CFCC, with its network of close to 400 Good Food Organizations across Canada, is doing a fantastic job in this area. Additionally, funding and support for food banks, community kitchens, and other non-profit organizations that offer immediate food assistance should be increased.
Moreover, we should invest in ‘Food Hubs’ that connect local producers with consumers and foster a sense of community around food. These hubs could incorporate farmers’ markets, cooking classes, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, giving people direct access to nutritious, locally grown food. The United Way BC – Lower Mainland partnership with food security organizations leading to the creation of Food Hubs across the province is another productive food security initiative that is helping—counter food insecurity in the province.
Food insecurity in Canada is a complex issue that requires a systems change approach. By strengthening social safety nets, reforming agricultural policies, enhancing food education, and building community infrastructure, we can ensure all Canadians have consistent access to nutritious food. This is not just a plan but a call to action, a blueprint for a more equitable and sustainable future. I invite you all to participate in creating a Canada where no citizen goes to bed hungry.