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  • Writer's pictureThink Upstream

Food security and your health

Did you get enough to eat today? More than four million Canadians didn't.
A variety of fresh vegetables in baskets at the market.

Jared Knoll

Reliable access to decent, nutritious food is absolutely fundamental to a healthy life.

Yet one in eight Canadian households is food insecure. They struggle just to put something on the table.

The health of our families, our communities and our nation is suffering for it. Food insecurity and poor nutrition are causally linked to many chronic diseases, like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We pay many, many times more in healthcare costs down the line to treat these terrible and expensive diseases, when we could stop them in their tracks by thinking and acting upstream, instead.

We work with lots of outstanding partners in this mission for better health and stronger food security in Canada. Food Secure Canada takes a comprehensive approach to how our politics impact food security, and how policy action across sectors can improve our nutrition and our health. PROOF Canada focuses on the upstream factor of income, which lies beneath food insecurity. Their research into the root causes of the symptom of hunger has shown that action like food charity, or addressing food waste, are unfortunately just temporary fixes. We have to go upstream.

Watch PROOF's principal investigator Valerie Tarasuk speak at Closing the Gap: Action for Health Equity, on how we can meaningfully address the Canadian crisis of Food Insecurity.

For an even deeper dive, listen to our recent episode of Upstream Radio with more from Dr. Tarasuk and others. We ask what's wrong with our current approaches to addressing hunger, and what we could be doing differently. If income is the most important factor, what if we just gave it to people, so they can afford nutritious food and have a chance at a healthy life?

We know food prices are an important piece of the puzzle, especially in the North where the cost of produce can skip past outrageous and into the obscene, but they can also be a red herring. There are a lot of ways we can get around the prices of food, even in remote areas, to improve food security.

Beyond dollars and cents

We shouldn't be afraid to look outside the lunch box. The evidence is strong that our income is the most important factor in our ability to put decent food on the table, but a lot of people are taking the initiative to make things better in their own communities and beyond. Food deserts, swamps and mirages are obstacles with realistic solutions at the local level, if we care enough to put pressure on our leaders. Food co-ops are popping up all across the country, as more and more people get fed up with a lack of grocery options with which to get fed up.

There's no shortage of ways that you, as an individual compassionate Canadian, can help to improve the food security in both community and country. We should all advocate, educate, and take action in our own lives, and by voting for leaders with evidence-based policies in their platforms.

Access to nutritious food shouldn't be a matter of privilege, or of charity. In a country as wealthy as ours, with our touted values of justice and fairness, everyone should have the right to food security and a fair shot at a healthy life.


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