Tag Archives: hunger

Are food banks an effective response to addressing food insecurity and poverty?

Guest blog from Kathy Dobson

When food banks started in Canada as an emergency and temporary measure in response to the economic recession in the 80s, they were intended to provide relief from immediate hunger as an emergency food source, not address food insecurity or poverty. Yet these so-called ‘temporary’ food charity providers are on the increase in Canada.

A panel discussion surrounding issues of poverty and food insecurity, ‘From Hunger to Health’ was recently held in Ottawa, as part of the second annual Spur festival. The discussion explored some of the root causes – and potential solutions – to the 75,000 people in Ottawa who go hungry each day.

Panel member Dr. Elaine Power, an associate professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Studies at Queen’s University, said outright that Food banks aren’t working. “Only 20 to 30 percent of food insecure households ever go to food banks.” One of the problems with food banks, explained Power, is that they provide a comforting illusion of people not being hungry.

“Food banks show that we care,” said Power, “but they have never gone away, though they were never intended to be permanent.” The danger, said Power, is that food banks can give us a false sense of having dealt with the issue of hungry Canadians. “We forget about hunger because we think food banks are solving the problem.”

Moderator Karen Secord, manager of Parkdale Food Centre in Ottawa, said food banks are always going to be needed, though, including the 29 in Ottawa alone, until we finally solve the issue of poverty in Canada. “If people don’t have an income,” said Secord, “then the need for food banks is going to continue.”

However, not everyone on the panel seemed to recognize and acknowledge the full extent and real threat of going hungry in Canada.

Panelist Dr. Pierre Desrochers, an associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto, claimed that poverty has not only decreased over the past few generations, he also suggested what he seemed to view as an obvious and simple solution to poverty in Canada.

“In my opinion the best anti-poverty issue is a job,” said Desrochers. “We should focus on programs of job creation and build from there.”

Despite some murmurs of surprise and disapproval from several members of the audience in response to Desrochers’s ‘best anti-poverty’ solution, he continued on, claiming that, “Humanity has done more to lift people out of poverty in the last generation than ever before,” and that it used to be “historically that it was the king and a few people who could afford a decent meal.” In addition to job creation, Desrochers also suggested lowering the price of food would make it more easily available to those in need.

Power received an enthusiastic round of applause when she countered with, “The issue for the millions of people in this country is not the price of food, it’s not having enough money.”

Kathy Dobson (left) in conversation with Elaine Power (right) and another attendee at the Hunger to Health event in Ottawa

Kathy Dobson (left) in conversation with Elaine Power (right) and another attendee at the Hunger to Health event in Ottawa

“There is dignity in being able to chose the food you eat and what to feed your family,” added panel member Kaitrin Doll, an anti-poverty community engagement worker at the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres.

In addition to dignity, regular access to nutritional food is also an important health issue. Powers said food insecurity is a leading cause of significantly increased health care costs as well. “The poorer you are, the shorter your life, the unhealthier you are. Poor people die sooner than wealthier people.”

Power said she has a dream for Canada.

“One where we value the common humanity of all and ensure that everyone has what they need to live a socially acceptable life,” said Power. “Right now we don’t have that.”


Kathy Dobson is a journalist, author, and a doctoral student in the Communication Studies program at Carleton University. You can learn more about her work at http://kathydobson.ca/

FAO presents plan for eradicating hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva presented a new regional Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication by 2025 during a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)…

The plan… is based on four broad pillars: strategy coordination at the national and regional levels, with a special focus on gender issues; sustainably ensuring access to safe and nutritious foods; widening school feeding programmes with a priority on addressing all forms of malnutrition, from undernutrition to obesity, and; tackling the challenges posed to food security by climate change. Read more

Fortnightly Feast – vol. 16

Cardiff chosen as beacon of sustainable food

Cardiff has been selected as one of just six cities in the UK to share in one million pounds of funding to be invested in improving food culture and support its efforts to become a Sustainable Food City. Read more

Sustainable Food European Style

For the first time, the European Commission is working towards a Communication on Sustainable Food. An important milestone in the move towards a more resource-efficient food system; Slow Food is actively encouraging the initiative, as well as the efforts of the Commission to open up the debate on this topic. Read more

Hunger, income and the local food economy…

Foodlink Grey Bruce, Dec 10 2013

In the spirit of solving the terrible problem of hunger in our communities it’s vital to explore underlying issues. When we see headlines like: Food costs eating up limited incomes about the annual Ontario Nutritious Food Basket survey that measures regional costs of basic healthy food, the real issues can get obscured. One could also say that “rent costs are eating up incomes” or any number of other causes; see Open meeting this Friday to discuss poverty … It’s a good opportunity to say a few important things that relate to local food. Read more

Island Chefs’ Collaborative

Many budding entrepreneurs start off by making their products in their kitchens at home, but depending on the type of product it is, they might have to make it in an inspected commercial kitchen facility, or quite often to take the next step up, they have to purchase equipment they just don’t have the capital for. This is where the Island Chefs Collaborative has stepped in… with a commercial microloan system. Read more

New Report on Growers Cooperative

The Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana is pleased to announce that a new report is available titled “Local is Delicious” But It’s Not Always Easy:  A Case Study of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative.

The research presented not only answers questions of interest to the Cooperative and its partners, but also contributes to a general understanding of small-scale cooperatives operating as food hubs, values-based supply chains, and the possibilities and challenges associated with building a more democratic, regional food system in a large rural area.

To access the report, go to:  http://www.lakecountycdc.org/_Resources_%26_Case_Studies


The logistics of going local

“If you’ve seen one food hub, you’ve seen one food hub.”
– Rich Pirog

It took 18 months and $650,000 to turn the Kalamazoo Street warehouse into a food hub, with the help of dozens of business and artisans who discounted their services or worked for free. Along the way, two layers of ugly ceiling tile were torn away to reveal a pleasant surprise: the graceful arched ceiling of the building’s first tenant, Kircher Grocery Store. Read more