THREE CONFLICTING (?) PERSPECTIVES ON FOOD INSECURITY IN CANADA
Lisa Orchard, Wayne Roberts and Bob Spencer
Three Conflicting (?) Perspectives on Food Insecurity in Canada will highlight the diversity of responses to hunger and food insecurity, and the significance of each in improving social development at national, provincial and local levels. The existence of wide-spread food insecurity has led to an emergence of responses that have often appeared to be polarized. For instance, the Canadian Association of Food Banks (CAFB) has focused on the public policies required to address poverty to reverse the growing reliance on emergency food programs in every province and territory in Canada. The Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) has emphasized the food system itself, and developed municipal food charters, involved public health in community food security and made advances through Toronto’s Food and Hunger Action Committee. The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) has begun introducing community economic development approaches that provide a bridge in responding to the challenge of how best to eliminate hunger and food insecurity in Canada.
As a non-governmental organization intimately involved with issues of hunger and food insecurity in Canada, the CAFB has monitored and commented on the progress of the federal government with respect to domestic food security and issues of economic access to food. Based on the findings of its annual HungerCount survey of food banks and programs, CAFB proposes comprehensive policy solutions, including the introduction of a national affordable housing strategy, an end to the clawback of the National Child Benefit and the provision of national, regulated childcare. CAFB also encourages provincial governments to establish reasonable social assistance, disability support programs and minimum wage rates that reflect actual costs of basic necessities, such as food and housing.
The TFPC will present the unique position it shares with the City of Toronto’s Food and Hunger Action Committee that hunger is not only the result of poverty but of the food system itself. The TFPC approach involves bringing people from different organizations together to help find new ways to solve old problems. The Council is a forum for discussing and integrating policy issues that often fall between the cracks of established departments and research specialties. Council staff collect hard to get information and make it available to students, researchers and community developers. Staff and council members increase public awareness of food policy issues through public lectures and workshops. Staff and members advocate for policy change at the municipal, provincial and national levels. Over the past 10 years the TFPC has been instrumental in putting food security and food policy development squarely on the municipal agenda.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a registered non-profit, charitable organization that serves as a network of over 100 food banks in Ontario. Members are located in urban and rural communities, as different in size and outlook as Toronto and Emo. The OAFB will present an overview of its recent initiatives, such as its community kitchen, to demonstrate an integration of the approaches highlighted above.
Lisa Orchard is Director of Research and Public Education for the Canadian Association of Food Banks. She has worked as a researcher on urban, economic and social policy issues for the Province of Ontario (2001-2002), City of Toronto (1999-2001) and the Toronto Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force (1998). She holds a Bachelor of Political Science and a Master’s of Planning from the University of Toronto.
Wayne Roberts is Project Coordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council. Since earning his PhD on the social and economic history of Toronto, he’s written or co-authored seven books, including two best-sellers: the green economics primer, Get a Life! How to make a good buck, dance around the dinosaurs, and save the world while you’re at it; and the healthy lifestyles manual Real Food For A Change. In his capacity as Chair of the Coalition for a Green Economy, he served on the Environmental Task Force that drew up Toronto’s environmental plan. Since joining TFPC staff in 2000, he worked as a staff coordinator of the Food and Hunger Action Committee; the action plan, The Growing Season, was adopted unanimously by City Council in March 2001.
Bob Spencer is Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks. He has participated in the University of Toronto international development program (1997-2000), and was Research Coordinator for the Fair Tax Commission of Ontario, Research Coordinator for the Metropolitan Toronto School Board (1995-1997), and Chair of the Toronto Board of Education (1975-1985).
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