Food Mentoring at the Amherst Food Bank

I recently had the pleasure of joining one of our partner organizations with some food programming at the Amherst Food Bank. Once a month or so, staff from Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre (http://www.cumberland.maggiesplace.ca/), show up at the food bank … Continue reading

Growing Farmers Markets in Cumberland County

For the third year in a row now, the Ecology Action Centre’s Our Food Project has partnered with the Cumberland Food Action Network (CFAN), to produce a handy reference for locating local farmers markets in Cumberland County, NS. The Farmers … Continue reading

Are the Sustainable Development Goals for Us?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) developed in 2000 were part of a 15-year agenda to address critical health and social issues in the developing world, such as extreme poverty, a range of health issues, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Those 15 years are over, and the United Nations has embarked on a consultative process to develop the next 15-year agenda. The result is 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment, and address climate change.

There is one goal specific to food security to end hunger, promote food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, along with several other goals that are supportive (e.g., ending poverty everywhere, sustainable cities, ensuring healthy lives and well-being, sustainable consumption).

What makes these goals different from the MDGs?

1. They are universal. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs are intended for everyone and all nations. They are shared goals for global progress. For countries like Canada, the SDGs could help chart how we are doing within our country, how we help other countries to achieve these goals, and how we can work together on challenges that no one country can tackle alone, such as climate change. This is intended to be both practical – ensuring nations and organizations work together on big problems – but is also intended to break down Global North/ South divides and ensure no one is left behind in any country.

2. They are interrelated. Many of the goals cross-reference language in other goals, recognizing that these complex social problems cannot be fixed through silo approaches. Progress relating to one goal will necessarily mean progress related to other goals. This can also support partnerships and initiatives working across different sectors, such as business, government, and community and policy areas, such as health, economics, trade, and environment.

The previous Conservative government made it clear that they intended to apply these goals only in an international development and aid context and not here at home. Our new Liberal government hasn’t even finalized a cabinet yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how the SDGs might be applied to both foreign and domestic policy.

But, these goals are not just about nations. They are intended to be universal – for citizens and community groups, municipalities, and provinces. If others in Canada adopt the SDG goals as a guiding framework, then they could become a useful tool to identify what we’re doing well and where we need to pay more attention, track progress and share learning.

It could also mean more sharing of challenges, successes and lessons learned in building food security. Across the globe, small to medium farm and fish enterprises face common challenges relating to access to land/licenses/equipment, capital, infrastructure, and markets, in addition to environmental and economic sustainability. Poverty and food insecurity are also found in every community and threaten health and well-being of individuals and families. Despite our differences, the solutions themselves may not be all that different. Working through the SDG framework offers the opportunity to connect “local” across the “global” and share best practices and innovations for food security for all.

Satya Ramen, Community Food Coordinator, Our Food Project, Ecology Action Centre foodaction[at]ecologyaction.ca

Peer Pressure: We want a healthy school food program

We have invited guest blogger, Niki Black, to share some of the pressing food issues highlighted in the Eat Think Vote campaign, led by Food Secure Canada and others across Canada, in advance of the federal election on October 19, 2015. This week, Niki describes the importance of healthy food in schools for the future of our children. 

 

How well do you learn on an empty stomach? Many of us are familiar with skipping lunches or grabbing convenient and cheap foods that fill us up temporarily, but just don’t last. Lacking the healthy fuel we need, it’s hard to concentrate and work through the energy lows. The consequences are unhealthy and unsustainable, yet we expose our children to these same habits simply by virtue of sending them to school. Maybe that’s where we learned them, too.

Canadian schools are sites of learning, but we often don’t think about the role food plays in supporting that learning or what we’re learning about food. Any school has some level of diversity and this extends to the lunch that each child brings (or doesn’t) and eats (or doesn’t). School food environments can create a reliance on highly processed products and are unwilling hotbeds of inequality. In the lunchroom, there is nothing quite as effective as peer pressure. The temptation for “cool” lunches often yields slickly-packaged and less healthy foods, heavily marketed to appeal. Many kids simply don’t have a choice, with food insecurity affecting 1 in 6 children in Canada.

We lack the investment and policy guidance to provide one of the most fundamental conditions for growth: good nutrition. The Eat Think Vote campaign, introduced here, calls for a Universal Healthy School Food Program to address those inequities and ensure that every child has a healthy start.

Current school nutrition initiatives are a loose patchwork of provincial policies and charitable organizations such as Breakfast for Learning Canada, but these efforts are not nearly enough. Food insecurity leaves our children at risk for poor performance, peer conflict, and health problems that can persist over the course of their lives (such as obesity). Parents and schools are trying, but they require a solid foundation. A paradigm shift is long overdue.

The nutritional challenges of our schools are symptomatic of a much deeper pathology. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter released this scathing report after his mission to Canada in May 2012. In response, organizations such as Amnesty International turn a wary eye on us and wonder why this long-respected first world nation must rely on charity to patch its policy. Why don’t we transform those international condemnations into initiatives we can be respected for? Every person has the right to enough healthy food. Every single child.

Eat Think Vote calls for a 1 billion dollar cost-shared investment over five years to create just such a transformation. Reliable, sustainable meals at school can ease the pressure on family budgets, hectic morning schedules, students’ social lives, and the planet. Children will share nutritious food with their peers, thus fostering not only better learning opportunities but a deeper sense of equality and valuable food literacy to lay the foundation for healthy habits.

What might this look like? Imagine that every child has enough nutritious food to fuel their bodies and minds, and that every child understands how to make healthy choices, even if their circumstances don’t always allow it. Imagine what a nurturing role schools will play when gardens and cooking programs are as common as lockers and monkey bars, and children can eat together and respectfully accept that people have a wide range of food needs and cultural preferences. How might our nation’s food landscape heal when these food literate children use and share their knowledge both now and as they grow? We have a golden opportunity to create an ideal environment for sustainable learning and growth.

Sound appetizing? The election is almost upon us, but there is still time to sign the petition, share on social media, and get your chosen federal candidate involved. Let’s demand the best possible outcomes for one of our most valuable resources – our new generations. Today’s children will inherit our national challenges, and how we prepare them matters to everyone.

Launching “Food Counts: Halifax Food Assessment”

On Wednesday June 3rd, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market was abuzz as community members, media and local food advocates from various sectors gathered for the release of Food Counts: Halifax Food Assessment. It is the first broad based assessment report … Continue reading

Does HRM need a Food Strategy?

WE THINK SO. There’s no doubt that communities across Nova Scotia are mobilizing around food, and creating pockets of food resiliency that model new ways of how we grow, purchase and eat good food. And in some cases, these grassroots … Continue reading