Food for everyone
By Laura Aiken
It seems the public has been busy tallying up a list of food fears. A recent survey of Americans, conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation, suggested that chemicals in food outranked foodborne illness as concern. And people die from food poisoning. People also die from having no food. Are priorities becoming misplaced?
I have to wonder if all the fads, the trends turned new normal, and contentious subjects like GMOs, deflect from the gut-wrenching fact that humans prematurely cease to exist every day from starvation, and many more struggle to put food on the table. It is a luxury of the West to be able to have fad diets and debate the viewpoints of GMO-labelling. The world needs to produce at least 50 per cent more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050, reported The World Bank Group in April. Climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25 per cent, predicts the organization, which is mandated with ending poverty. Globally, one-third of all child deaths are attributed to under-nutrition. That’s staggering, really. As a world, we have fundamentally failed to feed our children.
Does the public conversation and popular media focus enough on the plight of the hungry, or the fact that rising grocery bills put real and worsening pressure on households? In July, Statistics Canada’s consumer price index reported a 3.2 per cent increase in food prices in the 12 months preceding July, following a 3.4 per cent rise the previous month. Yet talk of alleviating hunger seems a shadow conversation compared to a buzz word like sugar.
It is natural inclination to be a local citizen before a global one, after all that is what affects us first. According to United Nations statistics, one in nine people around the world are undernourished, and much of the poverty is in developing nations. It seems very far away. But it’s in our backyard too; on our First Nations reserves, in our food banks, our shelters, our streets and our kitchen tables. Food Secure Canada and Community Food Centres Canada raised alarm bells over a new report on the rate of household food insecurity in Canada released by the PROOF research team. “Household Food Insecurity in Canada 2013” documented that 2.4 million adults and nearly a million children (about 12.5 per cent of households) experienced food insecurity in that year. Statistics Canada defines food insecurity as being within “a household when one or more members do not have access to the variety or quantity of food that they need due to lack of money.”
I hear heart-warming stories all the time of bakeries who donate their leftovers, and share their resources with organizations in their community that help the less fortunate. There are multiple accounts in this issue alone; in our profile on page 23 and in the Final Proof column on page 38. The bakery industry has a vital role to play as a part of the food supply that touches so many.
Doing our part to help reminds us to be empathetic in our views towards a suffering that most of us are fortunate to have never known. It reminds us of the salient fact swimming amongst the many opinions on what we should or shouldn’t be eating, or how we are labelling food, or any of the other heated topics of the day: some people just don’t have enough to eat. And as a big force in feeding the nation, the bakery industry also has the power to be part of fixing that.