Battling Food Insecurity in Ontario

Food security is a hot topic in the media today, as more research is conducted into what makes people food secure. Food insecurity is a multi-faceted issue that cannot be explained simply as being caused by living too far away from food, or not having enough. The issue is complicated and encompasses many factors.

Food security has been defined as “a situation in which all community residents can obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system.” This means that food security is not just determined as having adequate access to food, but also having the ability to obtain nutritious items, such as local produce. New research conducted by Kelly Hodgins, at the University of Guelph, shows that, while Canadians are urged to eat and shop local, it’s not always accessible to everyone. Hodgins explains that often times low income and food insecure individuals cannot afford the hefty price tag that comes with local produce. Farmers markets today tend to exist as an area for the upper class, a luxury that only a few can afford on their Saturday morning.

Food banks tend to acquire non-perishable food items such as canned soup and beans. While these foods attempt to mitigate the issue, they are often less nutritious. If a low-income family cannot afford the ritzy prices of the farmers market or grocery store, and the food bank only stocks non-perishable foods, we now by definition have a food insecure household.

With research provided by people such as Hodgins, programs are increasing their work with local farmers in an attempt to make fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible. Taking an example from Guelph, Ontario, the Garden-Fresh Box provides donated fruits and vegetables from local farmers and creates boxes of produce that are available for pickup in various locations of the city. The boxes are sold at very reasonable prices to those who may not have the opportunity to access nutritious produce otherwise.

Alongside local farmers, some larger organizations such as the Beef Farmers of Ontario and the Egg Farmers of Ontario have been stepping up to the plate and donating funds for fresh meats and eggs to foodbanks or other programs for a number of years now.

With help from researchers, local farmers and farm organizations, perishable foods are becoming increasingly more accessible to those who need them the most. Although this may be a small piece of the food security puzzle, it is a step in the right direction toward a food secure future.


The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy.

Posted by Brooke Wareing on August 11, 2017

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  • Jim Wheeler says:

    This is an attempt to meld Local Food and Food Insecurity. There is certainly a bit of overlap but I believe they should be considered as separate policy issues. Food security should involve aspects of nutrition, but to address the desire to provide nutrition, any significant effort to promote local could actually detract from the nutrition cause. There are lots of sources of nutrition.

  • Phil Moddle says:

    I wonder if the author of the study has data to back up the use of the phrases “hefty price tag” and “ritzy prices”. As a fruit producer I frequently price compare at grocery stores and often find our Farmer’s Market prices are comparable or better, although my survey is not scientific. The use of adjectives such as “hefty” and “ritzy” have a negative connotation, and imply unacceptable gains by the producer. I think most fruit and vegetable farmers would agree that “hefty profits” and “ritzy lifestyle” do not match the reality of farming today. There are many causes to food insecurity and inaccessibility, however, “ritzy” pricing by the farmer is not one of them.

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