How can we redesign our food system to make food more accessible?
Each year, public health departments across the province calculate the cost of healthy eating by visiting grocery stores and determining the price of a “Nutritious Food Basket”. Their data shows that even a basic, healthy diet is unattainable for many low-income people.
As a result, many consumers are resorting to purchasing highly-processed, high-fat foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. This puts these people at higher risk for many health problems including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Food banks were originally created to temporarily provide food for those who could not afford it, but they have not successfully eliminated hunger. In fact, a number of factors including cuts to social assistance and the failure of income security programs have resulted in a larger number of people relying on food banks. Many of these food banks carry primarily packaged, non-perishable food which doesn’t constitute a healthy diet or benefit local farmers. In a province with the capacity to produce and grow enough fresh, healthy food for everyone, we must look for ways to make this available.
One initiative, Grow for the Stop, is an example of a grassroots effort to bring organic, local food to people in low-income communities while supporting local farmers. The program represents a partnership between the Stop, a community food center in Toronto, and The New Farm, a small organic farm near Creemore, ON. The New Farm fundraises through hosting events, as well as selling produce in retail and donating a portion of the money to the Stop. The Stop then uses this money to purchase local, organic produce to use in its food bank, community kitchen and educational programs that serve over 16,000 people a year.
Programs like these are one way to help make local and organic food more accessible. You can support Grow for the Stop by purchasing select produce at Fiesta Farms or the Big Carrot in Toronto, or attending an on farm fundraising event like their fall harvest festival. To learn about other initiatives working to advance our local food system download the Metcalf report below.