Canada is dealing with an obesity challenge. At the moment, one in four adults and one in ten children are defined as being obese. One might believe the answer to obesity is simply to eat less and exercise more. Yet, over the last few decades, researchers have learned this condition is far more complex than initially believed.
As the job market continues to contort and contract through the shifting of jobs, wages, and stability -- there is a growing voice, a growing question -- how do we make sure people across this province have the means to eat, to live, to thrive? How can we ensure that Ontarians are able to meet their most basic needs?
Canada's largest city has a world-class problem with poverty, and yet we hope that maybe, just maybe, it will go away. Rest assured it's not. Far from an old-school approach to budgeting, we need leadership and new approaches to revenue generation unless we want to be paying for the growing costs of poverty for years to come.
When organizations like Heart for Africa and Egg Farmers of Canada work with local farmers, the diets and well-being of the local population greatly improve. Establishing a local, sustainable source of eggs is the perfect way to ensure protein and vitamins are incorporated into the diet of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and adults living in developing countries.
Without money, it would be nearly impossible for food banks to provide clients with a healthy dinner plate. That's because essentials like pasta, soup and beans pour in, while equally important items like fresh produce, meat and dairy items are in shorter supply. Financial donations create flexibility.
Food insecurity, also known as 'food poverty,' can cause significant anxiety over diminishing household food supplies and result in individuals modifying their eating patterns -- adults skipping meals so children can eat or sacrificing quality food choices for cheaper, less healthy options, for example.
Getting food into Pikangikum has a sense of urgency, as there is a narrow window of time when the RFDA is able to safely deliver food to the community before the winter freeze sets in. Both the Health Centre and School Meal Program are desperately in need of food, and cannot wait an additional two months until the ice roads fully form.
In North America we tend to focus on how food is grown and harvested -- organic, free range, cage-free, Marine Stewardship Council, fair trade, non-GMO, vegetarian-fed and locally grown among them. From a sustainability point of view, though, the most important question is missing from these labels: Will this food be eaten or will it end up contributing to the world's growing food-waste problem?
The Stop has been running a food bank for over 30 years. With help from students at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy, we recently asked community members about our emergency response. We provide healthy food, but our monthly hampers last three days. We wanted to know what happens the other 27 days. Food insecurity is not an "emergency," but the predictable result of poverty, a slow-burning fire, affecting one in eight Canadian households. More than 30 years on, we refer to food banks as emergency response. Is that what we mean? Is it time to call out this dangerous misnomer and the inadequate national response it has fostered?
Ramadan is scheduled to commence later this week and I am not looking forward to it. The Islamic calendar is lunar based, so Ramadan shifts by approximately 10 days every year. Fasting during the winter months is easy with dawn being so late and sunset being so early. Fasting during the summer months is brutal -- dawn is currently at 3:45 a.m. and sunset is at 9 p.m.
While the right to food is a basic human right, food insecurity is a serious problem around the world. The global evidence is clear. Countries that make investments in agricultural development are better equipped to eliminate hunger, reduce rates of undernourishment and accelerate their economies. What's more, increased farm incomes stimulate employment both on farms and in the broader community. Further, the World Bank found that GDP growth originating from agricultural development is twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth stemming from alternative industries.
The World Bank's ambitious goal to end poverty by 2030 requires large transformations in the global political economy so everyone has a chance for a better life. According to World Bank President, Jim Kim, defeating poverty requires a surmounting push from $131 billion dedicated to development, to a trillion dollars.
This past holiday season, food banks all across Ontario benefited from the generosity of their communities. Ontarians came together to donate food and financial support, both of which will make an enormous difference in the lives of people who struggle to make ends meet. Yet as the holiday lights and warmth fade and we head back into everyday life, we must not forget that this is not enough. In Ontario alone, it is estimated that 770,000 people visit food banks annually, and 20 per cent of food banks run out of supplies at least once every year. In a province that has more than enough food for everyone, why is this happening?
By nature, we are genetically programmed to eat whenever opportunity presents itself, presumably stemming from times when food was much scarcer than it is today. And although the "feast or famine" scenario is no longer as common as it used to be, our instinct for making the most of opportune encounters still exists and influences our behaviour.
As a 26-year-old business professional I face very typical problems on a day to day basis, ones that many of you may face. I have to deal with traffic, I have to find parking in downtown Toronto, I have to deal with deadlines. But it wasn't that long ago that any of these trivial issues were not a concern to me as my only burden was finding my next meal. For two years I battled homelessness and my hope was dependant on youth homes and the kindness of strangers.
The real news in the recent Hunger Count 2014 report is not that 841,191 people came to food banks for help in one month -- a number 25 per cent higher than in 2008. Nor is it the realization that close to 40 per cent of food bank recipients are children. No, the overarching narrative is how the presence of food banks in most communities has come to represent the failure of imagination for a country and its citizens.