This is not news… we know that sufficient, safe and nutritious food is critical to the health and well-being of us all. At this time of year, we tend to think a little bit more about the food we can and cannot afford. Tis the season to give generously… to food banks and other emergency food and support programs. The push for donations ensures that food banks can not only feed more people over the holiday season but also stock up for the year to come. And this next year is shaping up to be another hard-hitter when looking at food security (and household food insecurity).
4.4 million Canadians (including half a million British Columbians) experienced food insecurity before the pandemic. This number is expected to double over the coming year (according to Food Secure Canada, Growing Resilience and Equity Report). Double! In addition, we can expect the highest (predicted) food cost increases in 11 years (since the Food Price Report began). In 2021, a family of four can expect to pay up to $695 more this year, bringing the average annual food bill total to about $13,900.
When we originally shared this blog post in January, stats from Interior Health stated that around 14 percent of households’ (in Interior Health) experience food insecurity (many making after-tax income of less than $22,460 annually). What will it mean if we see these numbers double here? How can we meet people’s needs now, while also pushing for systems change—change that ensures everyone can afford adequate, healthy food—change that fulfills our basic human RIGHT to food?
What seeds of change and innovation are being planted now that, if scaled up, could help build sustainable local food systems across the country? And importantly, what emergency responses may be false fixes, sowing the seeds of the next crisis? The moment clearly calls for visionary and bold change, rather than piecemeal approaches grounded in “more of the same”. (Food Secure Canada, Growing Resilience and Equity Report, 2020)
Given what we know about the root causes and influencers of food insecurity (like poverty), and all that COVID has made visible in terms of the cracks in our food system, not to mention that we are nearing the 40th anniversary of food banking, perhaps 2021 will bring about policy changes that establish a universal living income, or increasing funding for programs that strengthen access to healthy, local and sustainably produced foods for low-income households (like good food boxes and farmers market vouchers).
On a positive note, we have local programs that are not just helping to address immediate need but are also considering how to do so in a way that supports local businesses and food systems.
For example, in the North Okanagan we have the Good Food Box Program that has operated in our community for many years. Here is an update from the good folks at the Good Food Box (GFB) and ways to help if you have a bit extra still to give this year:
The Good Food Box Society of the North Okanagan helps several hundred individuals and families throughout the North Okanagan access a monthly, affordable Box of fresh fruits and vegetables for $20 per box (store prices put the same amount of produce at $40-$50). We are able to do this through wholesale buying with local distributors and farmers in season. This program is for everyone regardless of their financial situation.
The Good Food Box program is going strong despite the pandemic — supported by our community outlet locations to continue operating while following all the COVID guidelines for safety of volunteers and participants. In fact, in November we delivered over 500 and in December it will be over 600 boxes, with many individuals and agencies sponsoring boxes for those in need.
This year the program, under the Good Food Box Society of the North Okanagan, reached households in Vernon, Armstrong, Falkland, Silver Creek, Lumby, Cherryville and Enderby (new this year).
Also, this fall the Community Foundation of the North Okanagan established a six month funded project to sponsor 160 Good Food Boxes per month through various Vernon Social Agencies. This project is in response to a survey by the Social Planning Council of local agencies, which indicated the high need for food support for struggling families, people with disabilities, and seniors. This project offers food box certificates and grocery gift cards to local agencies to give to their clients in need and will operate from November 2020 through to April 2021. For more information contact Leanne Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter months are difficult times for struggling families to afford produce, especially as gardens and local markets aren’t available. Please consider donating to support local families access healthy produce and consider ordering a good food box for yourself and your family.
Here are some ways you can help:
This program is also worth mentioning. The Shuswap Box began as an offering of eggs, a loaf of bread and veggies from the Salmon Arm Saturday Farmers Market vendors for $25. This was a convenient way to sample fresh, local and seasonal farmers market offerings in a grab-and-go box. But more than that, the intent of the box was to make fresh local food available to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it, while also supporting small-scale farmers.
In partnership with Salmon Arm agencies and the Salmon Arm School District, the Shuswap Food Action Society has expanded the Shuswap Box to reach school families. To continue offering subsidized boxes, available on referral from local social services organizations, an online fundraising effort has been launched on mycharitableimpact.com.
For those who have a little left to give this year we hope that these organizations strike a chord with you. With another uncertain year ahead there is hope for change through bolstering our local food systems. Here is to increasing access to healthy, local and sustainably produced food in a way that supports our small scale farmers and processors!
Happy New Year!