Food insecurity is on the rise, both within Canada and internationally. Food prices are rising; food bank usage is up; and inflation is driving an affordability crisis for Canadians. Extreme weather events, rising population growth, armed conflicts, and wars are impacting food security around the world – including food supply chains and food prices in Canada.
This pressing issue will require coordinated action by individuals, communities, governments and industry. Arrell Food Institute brought together four experts for a conversation about how our food systems can adapt to improve food security; this dialogue was recorded for a CBC IDEAS broadcast, which will air on Wednesday, November 29th at 8:05 pm in most time zones across Canada, 8:35 pm in Newfoundland.
- Food security is personal and political
- Actionable, timely, transparent and targeted data can help to inform decisions
- Apply systems thinking to food systems challenges
Tune into CBC Radio One to listen to the broadcast, or download the CBC Ideas podcast from your favourite streaming app.
Food security is personal and political
Food insecurity is an intensely personal experience – involving uncertainty, pain, shame, fear and hunger. Humanizing the experience of food insecurity can help us to find the right solutions.
Food banks and pantries have become one of the key ways we address food security – but the solution must go beyond charitable giving. Public policy interventions such as a universal basic income have the potential to transform our food system, but we must also address the disproportionate impact of food insecurity – and the impact of generations of inequity and harm – on racialized and marginalized communities.
Actionable, timely, transparent and targeted data can help to inform decisions
Data and information can help to drive action – but data on its own is not enough. We need to ask the right questions; we need information that is actionable, transparent and timely; and this information needs to be translated into a narrative that is useful to decision-makers.
Data, and the collection and use of data, will be most impactful if it is user-driven, values-based, co-owned, co-developed, and co-led. Going beyond aggregate numbers to consider local stories and trends, including looking at racialized data, local data, and other information can help us understand the impact of decisions and policies on food security. We must also go beyond scientific data and Western knowledge systems; Indigenous knowledges and worldviews can help to inform a holistic picture of community needs and opportunities to drive food security.
Apply systems thinking to food systems challenges
Food is related to nutrition, to public health, to community, to climate change, to our natural ecosystems, to human justice and equity, to our economy, and to many other factors. Using a systems-thinking approach to food systems recognizes the interconnectedness of all of the elements that contribute to food security and considers the interrelated impacts of decisions on people, animals, and our planet.
Food is common to all people and all cultures; food can be a unifying thread across communities and individuals, and using food as the cornerstone of our discussions can let us view the issue through our own lens while driving change towards similar goals.
What do we want our food systems to look like? Our current systems are not working for everyone. We need to work together to build communities and systems that are transformative. With the many issues that are poised to impact our food systems in Canada and internationally, now and in the future, we can’t afford to wait.
Tune in to CBC Ideas broadcast on November 29th or watch a video recording of the panel discussion on the Arrell Food Institute YouTube channel.
Interested in learning more?
Check out these resources by Arrell Food Institute
- Food Security is National Security (Full-Sized Graphic Notes)
- What is food security?
- Spotlight: Community Food Systems
- Establishing a national school food program in Canada
- Visit to Colombia brings new perspectives on food systems
- Innovation the key behind transitioning to sustainable and climate resilient agri-food systems
- People, together can transform the food system
About the Speakers
Paul Taylor is a long-time activist, non-profit leader, educator and media commentator. He is also the co-founder and principal consultant of Evenings + Weekends Consulting. For the last several years, he has also taught in the areas of organizational leadership, people resources and fundraising at Simon Fraser University. From 2017 to 2023, Paul served as the Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto, Canada’s largest food justice organization.
Jennifer Grenz is an Assistant Professor and Indigenous Scholar in the Department of Forest Resources Management jointly appointed between the Faculty of Forestry and Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. She is pushing the bounds of science to work beyond a singular worldview helping others to “make the old new again” by applying a relational lens. Her scholarly work challenges us to think differently about our role in ecosystem management and managing food systems (agrarian and traditional) as we face a changing climate.
Inbal Becker-Reshef is the Program Director of NASA Harvest, leading the overall program, research and vision for Harvest. Inbal’s work is focused on the application of satellite information for agricultural monitoring from the field to global scales, supporting decisions in food security and agricultural markets. Inbal is a Co-Director of the Center for Global Agricultural Monitoring Research at UMD, and a member of the AMIS Steering Committee, GEOGLAM-Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Technical Team, NASA Water Resources Applied Science Team, and leads the NASA SERVIR Food Security and Agriculture Theme of the Applied Sciences Team.
Patrick Webb is the Alexander McFarlane Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. As a scholar-practitioner, he has worked extensively on food security policy and practice, nutrition, agricultural development, humanitarian emergencies, and climate change interactions with food systems. He also serves as the Technical Adviser to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (or GLOPAN), and Adviser to the Food Systems for the Future initiative. He was recently re-appointed to the Steering Committee of the High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security, as well as serving on the Eat-Lancet 2.0 Commission.
View a recording of the session, Food Security is National Security, from the 2023 Arrell Food Summit.