Food Justice For All

Published in Far West Almanac, November 2009.

Food Forum I recently attended a Food Justice Forum geared to generate a variety of solutions to the issues of getting nourishing food to the lowest income groups in the downtown Vancouver, BC area, while still paying the farmers a living wage. This is an issue that cities around the world have been working to overcome. Belo Horizonte in Brazil is one outstanding example that has established a Zero Hunger program by subsidizing local farmers to come into the city and sell their food at affordable prices. This is in contrast to Slow Food movements and farmers markets all over North America which have been criticized for being priced out of range for the average person.

One of the things mentioned at this forum was that food banks and other institutions are being used as tax write-offs for large corporations to dump their surplus of unhealthy highly processed food items that are often nearing or past expiration. Highly processed foods of these types are to blame for the epidemics of heart attacks, diabetes and obesity that are characteristic of developed countries. Up to this point I have avoided entering the health reform debate raging in the US of A, as I have been fortunate to escape from my previously uninsured status by fleeing to Canada (which still costs around $50 per month whereas in New Zealand basic health is completely covered). Nevertheless it is truly shocking that the US is so backward in this area, but there are many false underlying assumptions that sideline the debate before it even gets started. When looking at the issue from a holistic perspective and combining it with the food justice issue what has happened to the US health care system can be viewed realistically. From this perspective we can no longer waste energy discussing bandages or how to set up another centralized institution where all money gets tied up in red-tape and unnecessary executives, and we start talking about how we can prevent obesity in the first place so that we don’t also waste money on triple bypass surgery for twelve year olds.