3/25/2014 CSOC808, Module8- Topics andLearning Objectives
Topics and Learning Objectives
Global and local food security and insecurity
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
Compare anti-poverty and food-sovereignty approaches to food insecurity.
Critique food banks as a solution to food insecurity in Canada and food aid as a solution to food
Explain the role that governments and corporations have in challenging or exacerbating food insecurity.
Critical Perspectives in Food Studies, Chapters 14 and 17
Take a moment to imagine a hungry or malnourished person. What does this person look like?
How old are they? What is their work situation? In what country do they live?
We have preconceived notions about hunger, many of them promoted by media images similar to the drawing
in Figure 8.1.
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Figure 8.1: Engraving from The Graphic, 6 October 1877, entitled "The last of the herd."
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Horace Harral
However, many of these images give us false impressions. Did you know, for example, that one-in-four
Canadians used a food bank in 2012 (Food Banks Canada, 2012, p. 2)?
Here are some other statistics that you might not know:
Almost 4-in-10 food bank users in Canada are children
About 1-in-10 Canadians who use food banks are employed, about 1-in-3 are university graduates,
and over 3% are post-secondary students
Asia is the continent with the largest number of hungry people (more than twice the number of Sub-
Half of the hungry people in the world are farmers
(Daily Bread, 2012; Food Banks Canada, 2012, p.19; UN World Food Program, 2013)
Do any of these statistics surprise you? (Do they reflect what you imagined in the previous activity?)
Whether you were surprised or not, you might wonder, How can farmers and employed people be hungry?
Why don’t our social systems make sure children are better fed? We’ll tackle these and other similar issues in
this module. But first, you may have noticed that world food security and insecurity are used these days to talk
about hunger issues. We’ll start on the next page by defining these terms.
Global and Local Hunger: Introduction
When we think about hunger, we often think about people not having enough to eat; we think about amount.
But experts emphasize that people need much more than a proper amount of food for well-being. What else
do they need?
Imagine you had a very low-paying job or no job, no family to help you, and not enough to eat. Then,
someone offered you the following for the week:
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Coupons for free meals at McDonald’s, KFC, Smoke’s Poutinery, and Krispy Kreme (donuts)
Fried crickets, scorpions, and larvae
Expired deli meats and some rotten produce
What would you think? Jot down some answers to the question, What kind of food do people need?
The concept of food security also takes into consideration people’s environment and their access to food.
What kind of access to food do people need? Imagine the following scenarios and try to fill in the blanks:
You have enough money to buy food, but you live in a food desert. (____________ access)
You live near a grocery store, but you have little money. (__________ access)
You live near one grocery store, but the cashiers have made racial slurs about you in the past.
On the next page, you can see if your ideas lineup with the definition of food security.
Food Security and Insecurity: Definitions
Below is the definition of food security. Did you predict at least some of the definition in your answers from the
Food security: a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic
access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an
active and healthy life. (FAO, 2003)
As you can guess, food insecurity, then, is the absence of one or more of these elements.
At a more basic level, to determine food insecurity in households, organizations like Statistics Canada ask
Canadians: "Have you, in the past year, not had enough to eat, worried about not having enough to eat, or
not eaten the quality or variety of food desired?" (Statistics Canada, 2005).
Here, you can see that worrying about not having enough to eat is also important to the notion of food
insecurity. People are considered food secure when they are no longer in precarious or uncertain
circumstances that cause worry.
Food Security in Canada
As you have read in Chapter 14, food insecurity and food bank use in Canada has been steadily rising over
the past decade. Why?
Suschnigg answers this question using two perspectives:
1. the anti-poverty perspective
2. the food-sovereignty perspective
Using your memory of Chapter 14, match the term with the issue it highlights and accompanying example.
Perspectives on Rising Food Insecurity in Canada
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Can you remember some other examples from the reading? Jot down some notes and then check your
answers in the text.
Both of these perspectives are valid and important. The anti-poverty perspective helps us to understand that
government decisions have major impacts on whether all Canadian citizens can be food secure. The food-
sovereignty perspective demonstrates that food security, both in Canada and abroad, is also affected by
issues beyond our borders, such as the global production and distribution of food.
Poverty in Canada
As you might guess, food bank use in Canada has a lot to do with incomes.
University of Toronto researcher Richard Maaranen has done some interesting research on incomes in the
Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Take a look at Figure 8.2, which shows incomes in the GTA in 1970 and 2005,
respectively. What pattern do you notice?
Figure 8.2: Average incomes across the GTA by census tract, 1970 and 2005.
Source: Adapted from J. David Hulchanski, The Three Cities Within Toronto, 2007
What changes took place from 1970 to 2005 in terms of income?
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The take-home message here is that poverty has been increasing in the GTA as well as across the country.
This, then, affects food security. We turn to some reasons for this on the next page.
Incomes, the Cost of Living, and Food Security
For households to be food secure, it’s not only important how much money people make but it's also important
what their incomes are relative to the cost of living. This includes the cost of food, shelter, and other basic
We already talked about substantial rent increases in Ontario since 1998. The average rent for a one-
bedroom apartment in Toronto is now $1,010. This rent has been deemed unaffordable by many critics.
According to the City of Toronto, 30% of couples, 55% of single parents, and 70% of single people earn less
than what is needed to afford this (Toronto, 2013).
You may have also noticed that the cost of food has increased significantly in the past few years. In fact, the
cost of food has risen about 20% since 2007 (Kerr, 2013). Here is a Statistics Canada table showing the
average cost of selected food items from 2010 to 2014.
Have you noticed any differences in your individual/household grocery bill in the past few years?
Are there any specific food items that you notice have gone up? Compare your thoughts on the
Class Discussion Board.
Both Suschnigg in Chapter 14 and Clapp in Chapter 17 talk about reasons for this. What main reasons do
According to the readings, what are some reasons for the
increase in the cost of food? Try to list 2 to 4 reasons.
Despite these rising costs, incomes in Canada have not kept up. As Suschnigg mentions in Chapter 14,
minimum wage in Ontario was frozen for over a decade until 2000. Unemployment rates also increased with
the 2008–2009 world financial crisis.
Food Banks as a Solution?
Many scholars and activists criticize the idea that food banks are a real solution to food insecurity. One main
argument is that food banks are a short-term solution that does not get to the root of the problem. The idea is
that we should fix the more fundamental problems of poverty and inequality in our society so that people can
feed themselves rather than simply giving people food.
A band-aid solution?
Some scholars, like Janet Poppendieck (2000), take this argument even further. She suggests that when well-
off people donate their time and/or money to food banks, they may actually be exacerbating the problem. If
well-off people make themselves feel good through their focus on food banks and think they are helping, they
may not fight for more fundamental changes in our society. This issue is important for Ryerson, where there
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are yearly food drives, especially around the holidays, to raise food for local food banks.
Suschnigg brings up another problem with food banks and corporate donations. Think back to Chapter 14.
Feel free to check your notes, if necessary.
What does Suschnigg argue is problematic about corporate donations to food banks?
a. Corporate donors, such as Kraft and Petro-Canada, may give substantial amounts of
money to food banks and be praised for their “generosity.” However, these same
corporations may paradoxically be contributing to food insecurity in Canada and e