Over 1 in 30 Canadians are not able to feed themselves properly or nutritiously.
This was the shocking conclusion to an 11-day investigation into food access by the United Nations’ right-to-food envoy earlier in May. The government was swift in its dismissal of his findings, citing Canada’s sterling quality of life and the importance of focusing on less well-developed nations. This shortsighted reaction ignores the day-to-day reality of many of our citizens who go hungry and undernourished. These are our classmates, our colleagues and our families. And not a single one should be left without access to healthy meals.
Even if the Canadian government would rather stick their collective heads in the sand and diminish the suffering of its own citizens, there are many community organizations and committed individuals who are striking out on their own to bring leafy greens and gem-hued vegetables to the tables of the needy. Recognizing that it is most often in urban centres and low-income suburbs where access to nutritious food is most limited by cost and availability, these innovative growers and providers are bringing the farm to the city.
In Vancouver, the Hastings Urban Farm has converted a vacant lot into a massive community project intended to bring the neighbourhood together to grow healthy, organic produce. Still, others are thinking in revolutionary terms. Check out this video by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
Imagine a city where tomatoes abound on sidewalk planters and unused parking spaces are reappropriated to provide lemons for local kids’ summer enterprises.
I admire ASLA’s vision, but I think it’s too high-concept for practical use. We need to start small. And why not start with the smallest? The Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto has already thought along the same path. They collaborate with local schools to develop school gardens where students learn about biodiversity while harvesting supplies for their own healthy cafeteria meals. Working directly on the land will help to engender a sense of responsibility and connectedness in these students and hopefully give them a lifelong appreciation for the meals on their tables.
Because it’s not just about where or how we get our food, it’s also about how we conceptualize it, and where we see ourselves in relationship to it. Our kids will form our future governments; let’s help them grow into the kind of politicians who won’t ignore the hungry.
Danny Brown recently had a harsh wake up call when he found out there is no Captain Planet. Instead of fulfilling his lifelong dream to be a Planeteer, he decided to pursue a Masters of Science in Urban Planning at the University of Toronto. In addition to helping transform cities to become more sustainable, he also wants to work on his green thumb and get his hands dirty more often. He is one of our newest Food and Agriculture writers for The Starfish. Welcome, Danny!