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Justice For All

Justice for All

We hear a lot about food security these days. Much is written about the food movement and food justice. Let’s face it. We’d all be a lot healthier if we ate better food. And if every one of us had the option to eat better food, we’d have food justice. But the scales rarely bend in favour of our community members in remote places. There, fresh food is rarely attainable. What is available isn’t affordable: I give you the $22.00 cabbage. And too often, what is offered is beyond its peak.

Processed food is cheaper to buy but costs a whole lot more in the long run when health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity occur. I would wager that it would be cheaper to subsidize the fresh food costs for a year for a family of four than it would be to treat one case of full-blown diabetes that involved hospital intervention.

Pop is cheaper than juice. If we can sell a bottle of liquor for the same price all over the province, why can’t we do the same for milk? How do we get some of this food justice for people in the north? We need to create a market where a frozen pizza is not cheaper than a salad. That would be revolutionary.

One idea came from the federal government. It’s a program known as Nutrition North Canada and it was designed to subsidize the cost of food transport to communities in the north. It started out with subsidies to the shippers and then was revamped to provide subsidies to the retailers. By all appearances, the subsidies did not reach consumers. If this interests you, visit Feeding My Family on Facebook and see what vulnerable, remote communities pay for everyday items.

Enter Foodshare, a non-profit group who provides fresh foods at subsidized prices but who are mandated to serve only the people living in Toronto. Good news travels fast and travels far. When the people in Fort Albany learned about Foodshare, they took action and wrote describing their community, it’s isolation and, particularly, the cost of fresh food. They made a very persuasive case for joining the fresh bulk produce program. Foodshare’s Executive Director, Debbie Field, said: “This is our one exception because it so highlights the disaster of poor food access in the north and how changeable it is.” The first shipment of mangos, kiwis, potatoes, rutabagas, avocados, bananas sold out in 30 minutes.

This is inspiring. It’s a really innovative partnership between the Fort Albany First Nation’s True North Community Cooperative and Foodshare in Toronto. It came out of forward thinking on both sides and the result is that community members can buy a wide variety of fresh produce at prices closer to what we, living closer to cities and towns, see at the local supermarket. It’s a bonanza for people who previously made food choices based not on what was good for them but what they could afford.

Here’s the takeaway: food security is a health matter. We, as a society, need to see it as a health matter. If we do, then fresh food subsidies will make a lot of sense. We need to talk about it often and table it for discussion at every gathering of the well fed – until there is food justice for everyone.

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