Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Musing: Beyond Food Stamps and Soup Kitchen Line Ups

Photo from stock.xchang

I am sure that most of us are already aware that there is a real food security crisis going on pretty much all over the world. Some would blame this on high petroleum prices, or food commodity speculators, or bad growing seasons.

Personally, I see it as a symptom of how we produce our food in general: from huge industrialized farming; monoculture; the mass use of petroleum based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides; GMOs (genetically modified organisms); shipping food thousands of miles to get to our plates, and so on.

When it comes to addressing these issues, some obvious solutions are smaller farms, producing organically, buying local, and growing and preserving our own food. But what about those who can hardly afford Mr Noodles and Spam?

This is a real serious issue in my area. According to the Ontario Association of Food Banks 2007 Hunger Report almost 320,000 people used a food bank in Ontario in 2006, and in Northern and rural Ontario, the number of users were 2 to 3 times higher than the provincial average. In the same report, it was stated that 22 percent of Ontario food banks do not have enough food to serve of their clients, and that 20 percent had to purchase half or more of their food stock outside of their community.

In my city of just over 50,000 residents, our local soup kitchen, The Gathering Place between 2003 and 2007, they served over 85,000 meals. In a report released by the District of Nipissing Social Services Administrative Board it was found that personal income is 21 percent lower in my area than the provincial average, and that more than 14 percent of the household live below the poverty line.

To top this all off, 16 percent of all personal and household incomes are coming from government assistance (a large amount of those are on Ontario Disability), and recipients of Ontario Disability would need to spend at least 24 percent of their income on food to meet nutritional requirements.


Are you still with me after all of those depressing stats? I hope so, because here is the good news: there are people who are actually doing something about it.

There is a group of us who are a gaggle of us who are growers, local foodies, environmentalists, and anti-poverty activists, and we are scheming. At this point almost everything hypothetical, but we do know that we want to grow organic produce for people on low incomes, and encourage social service providers (such as food banks) to grow their own food, and get some community gardens up.

The following are really excellent projects that are going on, and perhaps you can draw some inspiration from them for your own community.



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