By Nick Saul, President + CEO, Community Food Centres Canada
Every community in Canada should have a welcoming space where people can come together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food. Community Food Centres provide people with emergency access to high-quality food in a dignified setting. People learn cooking and gardening skills there, and kids get their hands dirty in the garden and kitchen in ways that expand their tastebuds and help them make healthier food choices. Community members gain new skills, self-confidence, friends and support. Over a healthy meal, neighbours can meet, talk, and start sparking action on issues affecting their lives, like income, housing, and other social determinants of health.
All photos provided by Community Food Centres Canada
At Community Food Centres Canada, we work to create Community Food Centres because we believe good food has the power to change lives. We know food is much more than a transactional item — it’s a source of physical and mental health, a holder of culture, a way to nurture the planet, and a means to connect with each other. Over a good meal, we can plan and mobilize for a better future.
We started off the year by making a list of a few key issues we’d like to see conversation and movement on in 2015 — from rethinking how we frame hunger to examples of progressive programs that could really improve the health of low-income Canadians. As we know, action is required on many fronts. This year, let’s get together and get vocal about these and other important issues — let’s speak loudly and clearly about the fact that every Canadian has the right to healthy food and call for clear action on food insecurity, poverty and the social determinants of health. We can’t afford not to.
5 conversations for 2015:
Expanding the use of the prescription pad
We know poverty is one of the most reliable predictors of poor health. Let's support progressive MDs like Dr. Gary Bloch, Dr. Ryan Meili and others who are writing prescriptions for income supports, raising awareness of the need for action on the social determinants of health, and calling for big-thinking, upstream policy responses that can really make a difference.
Bring on the Farmacy! Less than half of Canadians report eating the recommended amount of fruits and veggies. Let's explore prescribing fruits and veggies to treat diet-related illness, and supporting prescriptions with programs that provide affordable access to fresh produce. Check out this great example happening south of the border through Wholesome Wave.
Reframing food charity as a policy issue
Let’s stop talking about hunger as a problem charity can solve. People are hungry because they are poor, and that's a policy issue. We need to change the conversation around the solutions to hunger, and push our work beyond emergency responses to create opportunities for skill-building, for community engagement, and for action on the policies that last year led to food insecurity affecting 4 million Canadians. Author/activist Jan Poppendieck and I had a good conversation about this last year.
Exploring Guaranteed Annual Income
Estimates put the public and private costs of poverty at close to $73 billion per year. Additional costs to the lives of low-income Canadians is impossible to calculate. Many of our current responses to poverty are inadequate and piecemeal. But what if we could ensure a baseline, livable income for all Canadians? Let’s make more persuasive cases for how it could work — like this one, by former Senator Hugh Segal.
Rethinking Canada's Food Guide
Let's establish healthy eating guidelines that incorporate the latest thinking on how we categorize and portion food for health, and that go beyond daily recommendations to consider the larger picture, including how food is prepared, sold and consumed. Brazil put forward a progressive example last year — let's follow their lead!
Serving up creative solutions that address local farm income and food accessibility
Small farmers are an essential part of a healthy food system, yet many struggle to make ends meet. At the same time, many low-income people struggle to access affordable, fresh, local food. Creative policy mechanisms — like the aforementioned fruit and vegetable prescriptions — can help bridge the gap between sustainability and access. Let's get creative, and consider how we can put our tax dollars to work — through, for example, our hospitals, schools and municipalities — to fund a healthier food economy.
What issues do you want to get vocal about this year? Tweet us at @aplaceforfood.
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