Blog: Food Security in the time of COVID-19: Thinking Long-Term
You may have heard a recent ad on the local radio: struggling Edmontonians need food assistance after layoffs and fewer work opportunities. As a result, Edmonton’s Food Bank is trying to meet those needs and is looking for donations of all kinds.
Any time you have a shock to income, food is one of the first things to be given up. COVID-19 is such a shock, and it is an enormous one.
How a system reacts to shocks tells us a lot about how resilient it is. In 2008, when the recession hit, food bank use spiked by 28%, and it took years to for food bank use to decrease to pre-recession levels. To give an idea of the extent of the looming crisis, currently 4.4 million Canadians experience food insecurity. The World Food Programme predicts that unless action is taken, the number of people globally who experience short-term food insecurity will double. A poll conducted in April this year suggested that 65% of Canadians believe that hunger will be a serious problem as a result of COVID-19.
Rather than simply try to return to the way things were before, Food Secure Canada recognizes that these shocks can be an opportunity to create long-term, systemic changes. They explore how to build an equitable and sustainable food system for the country in a recent report.
Some of their recommendations are foundational for improving food security and are not new. They include:
- A universal basic income to ensure vulnerable populations have access to the food they want, not just the food they need.
- Indigenous food sovereignty, whereby First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples across Canada and in various settings are given the right to self-determination and governance within their food systems
- A national school food program, so that schools are equipped with the resources to provide adequate nutrition to all students.
This report also provides us with an opportunity to look deeper into agricultural practice and food systems in Canada. How these systems are set up influence our access to food, what kinds of foods we have, and the types of jobs available.