Food security: a priority for our community and others
Every month almost 150,000 people on the Island of Montreal need food aid. Although 13% of them are employed, they do not earn enough to buy sufficient food.
Montreal’s situation is similar to that of many cities and towns across the country. More than 2,000,000 people still do not have access to enough good-quality food, and 840,000 of them rely on food banks every month.
In northern communities, the problem is that the cost of food is much too high. In Nunavut, for example, 47% of food bank users are children. According to UN statistics, more than one billion people around the world suffer from malnutrition.
Food security would not be a problem if access to food were fair. In fact, global food production is sufficient to feed the entire planet. The problem is simply the distribution of food.
An international consensus on the concept of food security was reached at the World Food Summit held in Rome in 1996. According to the Committee on World Food Security, a normal situation requires that all people have physical, economic and social access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their needs and for an active and healthy life.
Food security should be distinguished from food sovereignty, which refers to the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies. Despite their different definitions, these two concepts are intertwined and essential to the development of a fair and sustainable international food strategy.
Our food security strategy
Food security and sovereignty have been priority issues for the NDP for a number of years. In 2008-09, Jack Layton and Alex Atamanenko, the then critic for Agriculture, Agri-food and Food Security, held extensive consultations in 28 Canadian communities in order to develop an effective food strategy. This strategy would give all Canadians access to nutritious food, help farmers earn a decent living, and ultimately lead to a sustainable production system.
The NDP is the only party with a food strategy. It is based on four major principles:
Sustainable agricultural communities
Support for local agriculture, for example with tax measures to encourage small-scale farmers to sell their products on the local market
The development of farm businesses to strengthen our national economy
Healthy food choices for all Canadians, especially through improved food labelling (origin, nutritional value, GMOs, etc.).
Improving food security in Hochelaga
In Hochelaga, hundreds of people every day rely on food banks buying groups and community kitchens even though most of them are employed. The riding has more than seven “food deserts”, which are residential areas where there is little access to fresh food. Thus, food security is a major priority issue in Hochelaga.
In light of this situation, elected officials and community representatives, who have been working hard for a number of years, decided to move forward on a range of initiatives in order to improve access to nutritious food in the area. Urban agriculture, community kitchens, food boxes, share stores, and solidarity grocery stores like “Le Petit marché de l’Est” can provide better access to nutritious food, improve our life habits, and foster shorter consumption cycles.
The Food Sovereignty Coalition’s Quebec website states that its mission is to promote public measures and international agreements for the self-determination of people’s food production and agricultural policies with respect for human rights and a country’s right to base their national food security in their own country and their own resources.
Équiterre is a Quebec organization that promotes the idea that we can change the world one step at a time. It creates practical solutions. With respect to food security, through its “Family Farmers” program Quebeckers can receive baskets of local and organic produce by signing up with a farmer.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website provides a better understanding of global food security issues.