SustainabilitySocial Issues

Sustainability and Food Security

When you think of sustainability, do you think of food security?

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food security as “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” The four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization and stability. Availability is the amount of food available to a region or country; access is the economic, sociocultural and physical accessibility of food. Utilization is the ability to have safe and nutritious food and water, as well as food that fits dietary needs. Stability is availability, access, and utilization occurring at all times.

Did you know that 8.3 per cent of Canadians are food insecure? That seems like a small number but actually it is 2,812,800 Canadians. The territories have the highest rates of food insecurity, followed by Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Families are more likely to be food insecure — 1 in 6 Canadian children lives in a food insecure household. The number of Canadians who are moderately and severely food insecure is increasing every year, especially in Canada’s north.

When you buy products from the supermarket, you may not know that many of them were produced unsustainably. Unsustainable food production destroys soils, contaminates water and even causes outbreaks of diseases. Unsustainable food production endangers our ability to grow food in the future.

The world is currently raising food production to try and combat food insecurity, but without considering  sustainability. This is compromising our ability to continue growing the food needed to sustain our global population. Developed nations, like Canada, often enjoy eating “resource rich” food like meats and processed food. Meats require the animals to be fed a lot, and processed foods have a lot of unnecessary additives like large amounts of sodium. These “resource rich” foods require more resources to produce and are also known to lead to obesity and overconsumption. The production of unsustainable food is contributing to food insecurity instead of combating it. Sustainable food is food that does not damage the environment in its production and requires fewer resources to produce.

Sustainable food production could address food security by making sure that food can continue to be produced in that area. It also makes sure we do not waste our resources, making food production more efficient. Sustainable food ensures that we will be able to grow food in the present and the future. It is often healthy food and it often doesn’t lead to overconsumption and obesity, leading to a healthier global population.

The first pillar of food security is availability: with more areas producing food that can continue to be produced in the same area year after year, food will become more available. The second pillar of food security is access: as less available land for food is abandoned due to damage from production, food will become cheaper (more economically accessible). It will also become more physically accessible, and more socioculturally accessible —there will be more available and accessible food, so more food will be accessible in places with social/cultural conflict. The third pillar is utilization: sustainable food production creates more safe and nutritious food, and less contaminated water. The final pillar is stability: sustainable production can produce more stable amounts of food, as less resources are wasted, and more viable land is preserved.  

How can we make a difference? Sustainable food is often not labeled as being so, but you can often find it at your local farmer’s market. Fair trade products and growing your own food are also sustainable. Meat is a “resource rich” produce that has many negative impacts on the environment. Lowering your consumption of meat can also help with sustainability. Also, lowering your food waste aids in the fight against food insecurity. Eating seasonally ensures that extra preservatives and unsustainable food production methods are not used.

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Sustainability and Food Security