We Must Build Community and Food Security

As Karen Theriault stated, in a recent article, “Healthy Diet too Costly for Some: Expert,” in the Chronicle Herald publication, “We know that Nova Scotia has a particularly high rate of food insecurity with about one in six households experiencing this.” We know from farmers locally that growing food is getting more and more difficult. In fact, even mid-income households report that a lot of the vegetables and fruits are unaffordable now that drought and other factors of the climate change crisis that have driven up the prices for imported produce as well, all which spell more food insecurity in Nova Scotia.
People struggling without property or capacity to profit, even the working poor and the lower middle class, who are also MORE insecure than if they were working communally, building more resilient communities, have to face the runaway climate emergency without the cushion of “means,” [though, as the difficult-to-attribute (Alanis Obamsawin is one source) quote, “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.” points to], we need new, radical strategies to secure food for everyone.
 
Before the notion of private property and profit, was that of the “Common,” by which all indigenous and pockets of other cultures (including in Nova Scotia in my grandmother’s era) shared resources sustainably. An example of this in present-day has occurred, for the last five years, on the Halifax Peninsula, on land that belongs to the people–the Halifax Commons. This movement is called the Common Roots Urban Farm which catalyzed and enriched food production capacity for food banks and any citizens who paid the $40 fee for a growing plot at the now demolished Queen Elizabeth High School site. Now this vital development has been forced to move to make way for a new hospital (where many of the diseases being treated are largely as a result of poor nutrition and lifestyle choices (of which the sufferers of them have few) . The “irony loop” never ends.)
 
Apparently, no socially-minded citizen with fallow land has offered to lease to this vital health movement of urban farming. But, wait! Directly across the street from that site is another parcel of “Common” land, the site of the now demolished Saint Patrick’s High School. A citizens’ group has collected over seven thousand signatures for the municipal council imploring them to allow the Common Roots Urban Farm, a movement, the like which we will need more and more, as produce becomes too expensive to buy and too hard to grow.
 

We need strategies to apply the new Canada’s Food Guide with its 50% vegetables and fruits at every meal. How else can most segments of the population begin to attain this standard if we don’t sometimes shift our thinking away from prioritizing a monetary tax base of “condos for the rich” to the basic needs of the majority? This requires politicians to be far-thinking in the service of survival for the many, instead of short-sighted in the service of covering our common lands with private enterprises for the recreational and pecunious obsession for power and luxury of the few. This part of the common should be available to all citizens who need to grow and supply food to themselves and the neediest. Otherwise, the new Canada’s Food Guide will only be for the few who can afford its platform.

 

By Joanne Light