Feed on

Food security. Defined narrowly as access to adequate supplies of safe, healthy food, and more broadly as the societal and organisational responsibility to plan and provide for long-term food supplies that are not only adequate, safe and healthy, but also ethical and sustainable, it is a topic that few Westerners think about.

Whether your concern is societal, for the two billion people who currently have no food security; personal, to the era after Peak Oil when food in the West may be scarcer and more expensive; or global, due to concerns about desertification, loss of biodiversity, or the corporatisation of food production and access to clean water, food security is a topic we should all spare a thought for.

Right here in North America, we have a stellar food security advocacy organisation in FoodSecurity.org, a clearinghouse of food security stakeholders whose purpose is to uphold and improve North American food security (in the broader sense) through education, advocacy and activism.

According to their ‘about’ page, they are active in 41 US states, 4 provinces of Canada, and the District of Columbia. Their goals are centred around developing local, sustainable food supplies and building the communities and networks that will support them. Some of their key activities include advocating for federal community food security policies, then working to ensure such policies are implemented; running community food security workshops to support, train and assist communities to address their food security issues; and serving as an educational resource through their extensive website and listserv.

When some people think of shopping and growing locally, they think that the sustainable model equates to living a Little House on the Prairie or Grizzly Adams lifestyle in the heartland of progress, but that’s not the vision of FSO and other food security advocates. They, along with such orgs as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture, which offers a competition for grant money to worthy applicants working to provide sustainable food security to needy communities) are working to support people building food security into the urban and suburban landscapes.

Right now, there are many individuals and communities in North America lacking food security. Particularly in low- and mid-density urban centres, zoning barriers and social concerns have severely limited choice in low-income communities, with predictable (and well documented) health outcomes. In the US, an estimated 35% of US residents buy most or all their food at WalMart, which relies upon a large, mostly non-domestic, network of suppliers to meet domestic demand. If WalMart goes under, raises its prices or limits selection, many customers will have no alternatives. The elimination of choice in food selection in many communities of North America means vulnerable consumers are teetering on the knife-edge of globalisation.

There is a great deal of corporate resistance to grassroots food security initiatives, here and in the developing world. Developing (or retaining) an infrastructure of small producers and suppliers dealing directly with a local community of consumers takes most of the profit out of food production, which, as I said in my blog post Urban farming and other news, is an artificial business model anyway.

So if you want to find out more about being a food security activist in your community, check out FoodSecurity.org. Their website is very information-dense and not the easiest to navigate, but their about page, which contains lots of contact information, and their committees page, which contains information about what they’re up to, are good places to start. Their publications page, an enormous resource, is also good to check out (that’s how I found the site). 

For recognising that even in the First World, social justice is a key element of food security, FoodSecurity.org is this month’s Heal the World selection.

 Resources:The Persistence of L.A.’s Grocery Gap: The need for a new food policy and approach to market development – from Oxy.edu – .PDF format

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