The Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security (“the Centre”) gathered over 160 people yesterday from government, the private sector and civil society at its annual Symposium to learn from new research, public policy and program experts, and people with lived experience about approaches to structurally reduce food insecurity and improve food access and health outcomes for vulnerable Canadians.
Food insecurity has soared in Canada in the wake of post-pandemic inflation. Nearly seven million Canadians, including one in four children, are food insecure. Food bank usage in Toronto has increased over 50% in the past year, with one in ten people now relying on food banks. While poverty has declined, 78% of people who struggle with food insecurity live above the poverty line.
“We need governments, the private sector and civil society to elevate this crisis as a priority,” said Michael McCain, Honorary Chair, Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security. “We need to work in unison towards a clear and attainable target to reduce food insecurity by 50% by 2030 and strive to eliminate severe food insecurity. This gives a runway of seven years – and that’s enough time to make the public policy and program reforms needed, enough time to get stakeholders engaged, and enough time to scale up interventions that make a sustained impact. We urgently need momentum.”
The Symposium included new research by Statistics Canada on the relationship between poverty and food insecurity. In 2022, almost half (48%) of single mothers below the poverty line and 40% above the poverty line struggled with food insecurity. Rates of food insecurity among Black and Indigenous households, even above the poverty line, were more than double that of non-racialized households.
The impact of food prescription programs on improving health and food security outcomes in the U.S. was also explored with leading health care, retail grocery, and community-based practitioners. With 50% of what makes Canadians sick tied to the social determinants of health, food prescriptions present an innovative way to increase healthy food consumption in vulnerable populations.
Other panels focused on advancing progressive policies at the provincial and federal level and movement building that led to the creation of the Canada Child Benefit. Individuals also shared their personal experiences about overcoming barriers to employment, living in remote communities and navigating government benefit entitlements.
“The sheer scale and suffering of people in Canada who struggle to feed themselves and their families compels us to accelerate the pace and impact of policy and program interventions,” said Lynda Kuhn, Chair, Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security. “It requires a social safety net that is strong, durable and accessible. We have the resources, the expertise and the public will. We need all levels of government to provide leadership.”
Source : Cision