Edmonton Social Planning Council News

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by:  Katherine Griwkowsky

The Edmonton Community Foundation will be giving up to $100,000 per year for three years to registered charities that come up with solutions for food insecurity.

Vital Signs reports were conducted across the country by community foundations in 26 municipalities, including Edmonton. The Food Security report in Edmonton was a joint effort between the Edmonton Community Foundation and the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Carol Watson, spokeswoman for the Edmonton foundation, says the money will help give more structure to the volunteer-based effort.

Edmonton's report, released Tuesday, shows groceries in Edmonton have steadily climbed in price, from $133 per week for a family of four to $210 per week in 2013 -- an increase more than double the inflation rate.

"It's expensive to live in Edmonton," she said. "Poverty and food security are so intertwined."

Registered charities can apply for funding.

In Edmonton, youth obesity is increasing, while fruit and vegetable consumption is declining. In 2012, 36% of Edmontonians ate the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables compared to 40% in Canada, according to the local report.

Youth obesity was 29.9% in 2012, up from 18.5% in 2005.

Christine McVea, program manager at WeCan, says her food buying society helps bring food to low-income people.

McVea said people buy fruit, veggies and meats from WeCan at the beginning of the month and receive the packages in the third week of the month.

"It's a surprise; we try to buy what's in season," she said, adding her group tries to buy Albertan or Canadian products whenever possible.

Marjorie Bencz, executive director of Edmonton's Food Bank, likes that the report looks not only at food-security related problems like diabetes and obesity. She said food security is important to all of Edmonton, not just those with low-income.

Gail Hall, a local chef, started paying closer attention to food after a diagnosis of breast cancer meant she had to watch out for foods that convert to estrogen.

As a chef, for example, she says there is a taste difference between locally-grown, heirloom tomatoes and ones grown in the U.S. for their ability to withstand shipping.

Edmonton is getting better at water use, with the lowest residential use in the six largest cities.

The average Edmontonian uses 144 litres per day, compared to 226 litres in Calgary