Learning alongside students: food security in Canada

Collaborating on Students Projects

At the Our Food Project we are often approached by students and teachers to take on interns. This can be both a huge opportunity–working with energized and talented individuals and groups, hungry for real world application to studies–and a huge challenge–it takes time to create a meaningful student experience that both suits their academic needs and supports project goals. As an NGO, we are skilled at finding and leveraging unlikely resources, such as student groups to support a piece of work moving forward. We recently had the opportunity to collaborate with Dalhousie University’s Management Without Borders.

The part that I personally love about working with students is getting to learn alongside. Often I develop a project that is related to our work that we don’t have time to explore. Through their exploration, I am able to develop connections to our current work and can integrate relevant elements.

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Illustration: Marguerite Drescher of BraveSpace.ca

A PESTEL Analysis of Food Security in Canada

A team of 6 students conducted a PESTEL analysis and here are some excerpts from their conclusion:

Politically, Nova Scotia is currently not a food secure province, and there aren’t strong plans from the Province to improve the food security situation in Nova Scotia. This may change as newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans on spending $100 million over four years to invest in agricultural research. Building food security can help boost the economy in Nova Scotia, as we have discovered that supporting locally grown food helps the economy. Although the Canadian dollar has recently been dropping, it is expected that positive impacts will be noticed by the manufacturing industries. Food insecurity is increasing in Nova Scotia, which has an impact on the Province’s economy, but projects like the Our Food Project, FoodARC, and other community programs contribute to the process of building food security.

There are four main sociocultural factors in food security. Demographic shifts within Canada like the large aging population and growing income inequality impact the stability of food security in Nova Scotia, and collectively demonstrate the need for stronger social and economic policies that increase access to and affordability of food. The interest in buying locally/Canadian produced food has been growing for the past ten years, recently reaching trend status. Buying local food helps to increase food security and improve economy, but barriers such as price, convenience and availability impact widespread adoption. Thirdly, poor personal health and healthy food options are also associated with food insecurity, as numerous food insecure households have reduced physical activity and nutrition intake, leading to physical health problems. Fourthly, widespread use of social media and smartphones lends itself to the consideration of online platforms being used for dissemination of information regarding food security.

Environmentally, there are both positive and negative aspects of the agricultural industry. Food production, processing and transportation methods can have a negative impact on the environment. In particular, some intensive farming techniques pollute the earth and can be unhealthy for Canadians to consume. Long-distance transportation contributes to a larger carbon footprint. Supporting local food production has a positive effect on the environment, while helping to build food security and improve the health of Canadians.

Food in Canada is regulated by five principal laws, and federal, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for food safety. The recent passing of Bill C-18 impacts farmers and food security as it prohibits unpackaged and unregulated seeds to be sold, imported to or exported from Canada. Additionally, it is argued that personal security, which is included in the Canadian Charter, is not achieved without food security.

Building food security is important in Nova Scotia, as provincial data shows that the province is largely food insecure. Food security is impacted by political, economic, sociocultural, technological, environmental and legal factors. By identifying these factors, it is possible to better understand the variety of issues related to food security and to take steps forward in promoting it to citizens in order to make a positive impact.

For past student posts with cool infographics see: Food Sovereignty in Practice and Inequality & the Food System

~Miranda Cobb, Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Our Food Project

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