Posts Tagged ‘food security’

Raj Patel, author of  Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing, spoke at the University of Ottawa on Tuesday evening. He’s a highly engaging speaker and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his insights into gender, current food prices, land reform, how technology is used as a diversion for politics, and more.

I’ve been reading a module on gender in my food security course and it was quite interesting how much of what he said tied in with gender. He repeated what I think I read in one of his books about food sovereignty being an end to violence against women. An example would be women in the global south working land that they cannot own. He linked increased crop yields to decreased nutrition for children as it entailed more labour for women. He also talked about a current project in north Malawi where men and women get together for “Recipe Days” and discuss intra-household gender issues – the project involves 50,000 farmers.

For more information about these issues and more checkout Raj’s website.

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A group exercise that we’ve been working on in the applied research and evaluation food security course at Ryerson is to cost food for a weekly nutritious food basket. My group and I have been using The nutritious food basket guidance document (Ontario Ministry of Health, 2010) and Canada’s Food Guide (Health Canada). It’s been an interesting exercise. People in other groups have commented on the difficulty of calculating weight and cost conversions and serving sizes. As a tool, it seems to serve as a general reference. It doesn’t take into account dietary or religious restrictions and it uses the assumption that people prepare meals from scratch.  The process of doing the exercise has also shown that access can be a barrier, both economically and physically, particularly as it applies to people with limited incomes such as seniors, students, people on social assistance, low-wage or casual workers. In this respect, it does highlight the fact that many with limited incomes are food insecure at the individual household level.

CANADA’S FOOD GUIDE recommends the following weekly servings for an adult female aged 19-50 :

Vegetables & fruits: 49-56

Grain products: 42-49

Milk & alternatives: 14

Meat & alternatives: 14

Oils & fats: 210-315 mL

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The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table (GWFRT) is a network for coordinated action for a socially just and environmentally sustainable community food system. This introduction to the round table is an excerpt from a community research assignment I completed in the fall in an introductory food security course at Ryerson University. You can find out more about the GWFRT here or about Ryerson’s online food security certificate here.  


The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table’s focus is on individuals experiencing food insecurity, food producers, and youth. It was established in April 2009 partly in response to pressures and issues facing the Guelph Food Bank and area food pantries as the most recent recession resulted in a large and growing population of low-income people who faced barriers to accessing healthy food in Guelph and Wellington County. The round table has six strategic directions and supports the development of a thriving food system through advocacy, action, planning, education, networking and coordination.

Food Policy

The food policy working group formed in October 2009 and its main achievement to date is the creation of the Guelph-Wellington Food Charter. The Charter is premised on six fundamental principles, or pillars – health, education, sustainable economic development, environment, culture, and social justice. The Charter was unveiled in June 2010 and introduced to the public in October at Food on the Table, a facilitated dialogue attended by approximately 20 electoral candidates and 75 community members.

Community Gardens

The community gardens working group formed in April 2009. It prepared and submitted a proposal and, as a result, four sites were approved for a two-year pilot project. Fundraising efforts covered the purchase of things such as fencing, tools, sheds, some seeds/plants, and straw. Straw and green manure were purchased via a buying group type of purchase.  Technology was also a factor and the community garden’s group list-serve was a resource for plant and seed sharing; it also played a role in education, problem-solving, meeting reminders, minutes, etc.

The gardens were used by adults, children and youth and enhanced participants food and nutrition knowledge and skill, as well as community cohesion. There were no more than 15 plots at any site and, not surprisingly, demand outstripped supply.

Food Accessibility

The food accessibility working group formed in October 2009 and its purpose is to increase food security for people of low income in Guelph and Wellington. The group recently developed a food access guide/directory, which it also hopes to publish online.

Another project  in the works is a collective kitchens manual. Collective kitchens are a way to address local food needs and provide access to nutritious and healthy food. Generally, people come together once or twice a month to prepare food in bulk. They are a way to reduce costs, learn cooking and nutrition skills and socialize.


The distribution group was formed in October 2009 to increase the availability and accessibility of local food and strengthen the connections within the local food system. It setup two neighbourhood markets in the summer of 2010.


Ultimately, both urban and rural interests need to be involved in a collaboration to build a sustainable food secure community and region where everyone has access to healthy nutritious food. The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table network has close to 50 stakeholders. It’s early in the process; however, within the working groups, the overall round table, and the coordinating committee the five food security analysis factors outlined in Ryerson University’s introductory food security course – availability, accessibility, acceptability, appropriateness and agency – are being addressed.

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