By Doreen Nicoll
October 16 is World Food Day. First observed in 1979, World Food Day honours the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on October 16, 1945 in Quebec, Canada.
This year’s theme, Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too, builds upon the FAO’s vision of achieving food security for all through regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
The FAO’s three main goals are:
- The eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.
- The elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all.
- The sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
By creating resilient, productive and sustainable global agricultural practices, and reducing food waste, the FAO hopes to end global hunger by 2030. Realistically, climate change aside, is it even possible to end global hunger?
As a teen I read Frances Moore Lappe’s book, Diet for a Small Planet. I remember thinking it made complete sense to reduce meat consumption in order to improve global food security. It took a little longer for me to realize that greed and politics have far more to do with the ongoing global hunger crisis than a lack of bounty. Forty years later not much has changed – we just have better methods of tracking the problem as it continues to grow in size, scope and severity.
- 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption is never consumed because waste happens in production, packaging, distribution, sales, and consumption. That’s equivalent to $750 billion.
- 1.3 billion tons of food valued at $31 billion is wasted annually in Canada alone.
- When the additional costs of energy, time and water are calculated into the equation the actual cost of food waste in Canada is closer to $107 billion annually.
- In 2015 food banks helped over 1.7 million Canadians.
- 1 in 6 food bank clients are, or have recently been, employed.
- 110,000 Canadians in rural communities rely on food banks.
- 47 percent of children living in northern Canada don’t know if there will be a next meal.
- World food waste releases carbon dioxide in amounts equal to 700 million cars annually.
- Food waste in landfills releases methane and contributes to climate change.
So, it’s clear individuals can significantly reduce their ecological footprint by reducing the amount of food they waste, but how does that evolve into eradicating hunger in Canada and around the world by 2030?
First of all, Canadians shouldn’t have to wait another 14 years for food security. However, compared to the lack of progress made to reduce child poverty across the country over the past 25 years and this becomes a relatively more palatable timeline.
To replace hunger with food security Canada needs:
- A guaranteed basic income to ensure every Canadian can purchase adequate amounts of culturally appropriate food.
- A living wage and conscious move away from the practice of precarious employment as the norm.
- All provinces to follow British Columbia’s lead to end the claw back of child support from sole custodial parents on social assistance. This includes Ontario where the Wynne government announced in February 2016 that this practice would end, but has yet to implement the change.
- A national food policy that includes creative solutions for issues of food insecurity unique to northern regions.
- To support local family farm and co-operative initiatives producing a wide variety of genetically diverse crops to mitigate the effects of climate change. To stop corporations from patenting life.
- To ensure corporations are held accountable when their genetically modified products contaminate non-GMO farms, gardens and neighbourhoods.
- To protect farmland from development because a country that can’t feed itself is at the mercy of its supplier and in this case the US isn’t looking too friendly if Donald Trump becomes president. In 2006, 7.3 percent of Canada’s land was considered arable, but a mere 5 percent was considered prime or dependable.
- Increased incentives for low input farms, certified organic farms and community supported agriculture.
- Stop bottlers of water, corporations, mining companies and golf courses from using public water or acquiring aquifers for private use.
- A national housing strategy including federal investment in affordable housing.
- A national pharmaceuticals strategy.
- A national child care strategy.
Once we ensure food security for Canadians what role will we play in ending global hunger? How do we stop food from being used as a weapon of war? How do we prohibit corporations from buying up large tracks of land to grow cash crops at the expense of locals’ food security? How do we prevent corporations from patenting life and holding farmers hostage using designer seeds and terminator technology? How do we put an end to corporations buying up water rights? How can we continue to justify our role in perpetuating climate change when it places poorer countries at even greater risk of food insecurity?
Greed and politics will continue to prevent us from ending world hunger unless a universal change of consciousness occurs. Our self-centered, self-serving means of national and international production and distribution have failed to lessen hunger here at home and around the world. Climate change remains secondary to creating jobs and growing the economy even though these goals needn’t be mutually exclusive. War continues to rage within Canada in the form of the oppression of women, Indigenous peoples, racialized and visible ethnic groups, workers, and the poor. If we can’t significantly address these home grown issues, how do we expect to make a positive international contribution to ensuring global food security?
Improving individual, national and international food security requires a complex set of solutions addressing the intersecting causes that can be quite unique to each individual and country based on their experience of oppression and discrimination.
World Food Day is a stark reminder that simply producing more food, or wasting less of what we produce, will never get food into the mouths and bellies of those who desperately need it yet can’t afford to grow or buy it.
This article originally appeared on Raise the Hammer.