Food plays a big role in connecting people, building strong communities, preventing and managing chronic illnesses and improving health. Unfortunately, not everyone can access the foods they need to stay healthy. Having a lower income, lack of transportation and poor housing are some of the main reasons people may not be able to purchase healthy foods. Young families on low income, seniors and the unemployed are least able to eat well. In our own communities food poverty exists right beside food plenty.
There is no easy solution to ensuring all people have access to affordable healthy foods. In the early 1980s food banks were established to meet the needs of the growing number of hungry people. They were developed as an emergency food system. Almost 30 years later we have come to realize that food banks alone are not able to meet the needs of those who don’t have enough food.
Recently we’ve seen another approach to addressing hunger. The emergence of community groups working to ensure that everyone has access to good affordable food has been called one of the fastest growing social movements. Local actions to address food security have grown and multiplied. Examples include community and school gardens, a gardener’s market, grow and share programs, seed festivals, workshops on growing and preserving food and composting. While community response and public support has continued to grow, there has also been an interest from public agencies to address food security in a more formal way. Schools, education boards, health regions, recreation centers, local and regional governments are all starting to look at their role.
Many school divisions are in the process of developing school nutrition policies to support the comprehensive school community health approach. This involves implementing polices based on guidelines outlining healthy food choices that are consistent with the nutrition education classes. Adopting and fully implementing these policies will ensure a consistent nutrition standard for all Saskatchewan schools. Schools and education boards have also provided funding for breakfast and snack programs to address the needs of students who may come to school hungry.
Many Health Regions have implemented nutrition policies that ensure they provide access to healthy foods for patients, staff and visitors. Adopting the Baby Friendly Initiative ensures that mothers are supported to breastfeed. There is no more readily available, affordable and nutritious food source than breastmilk, a complete food for infants up to six months of age. Along with other foods, breastfeeding continues to provide the growing child with essential nutrients and energy, helping to prevent malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in the second year of life and beyond.
An opportunity for enhancing food security is the partnerships between community agencies and local governments to create healthy build environments. Many communities are now including access to food as a goal in developing plans. This can include the location of grocery stores, transportation, allocation of space for community gardens and support for urban agriculture.
Assiniboine Food Security Alliance (AFSA) is a non-profit organization of community-minded volunteers who are working towards increasing food security in Yorkton and the surrounding area. We welcome new members (individuals and organizations) and volunteers to show support for current and new approaches to food security. Volunteers build our human resource capacity with a demonstrated desire to meet the food security needs of people in our communities. If you have new ideas or are interested in finding out more about our projects please visit the website at www.afsamatters.ca or contact us at afsamatt...@gmail.com.