10 Reasons to be food secure

Photo: istockphoto.com/Peter Finnie

North Americans are used to abundance and we don't think about where our food comes from. But food shortages, high oil prices and climate change are changing how we shop. Becoming food secure can help you from going broke or hungry trying to feed a family. Use the Green Living Guide to start your zero-mile diet with the best farmers' markets in Canada.

Food supply changing
Food is getting more expensive and it's a shock since we are used to buying what we want when we want it. We can't conceive of going hungry. In fact, Canadians throw out 7-14 million tonnes of food per year and the average American family throws out 14 percent of what they buy.

But worldwide there are 852 million people chronically hungry and an additional two billion people who lack food security, which means they worry about where their next meal is coming from.

Need to change
The North American disconnect from food has left many of us unaware of where our food comes from. That makes us vulnerable to rising prices and unable to control quality or supply. Take away your local supermarket and where would you find your groceries?

Faint at heart
Author Robin Wheeler has been writing about the politics of food for many years and is considered an expert in traditional skills such as canning, seed saving, winter gardening, sustenance gardening and medicinal plants.

She offered Green Living a sneak preview of her new book Food Security for the Faint at Heart with her 10 reasons to get food secure:

  • 1. Stuff happens. Earthquakes, trucker strikes, who knows; in an instant, our world could change. We should be better prepared.
  • 2. It can be difficult for low-income families to afford high quality food. Fortunately, it costs little to grow nutritious food so having a safe food source nearby (like your own back yard) is a great equalizer.
  • 3. The World Economy. What's that all about? Beats them, too! But it's a big, tippy bag of wrestling cats and we hope it doesn't fall over.
  • 4. Fossil Fuels. Getting darned expensive, eh? That would explain the high cost of lettuce in January, and of imported olives.
  • 5. Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) and pesticide use. Although some say the jury is still out, my vote is in and that is for wholesome food grown without mucking about with anything made in a lab - something we can reproduce in our own back yards, for instance.
  • 6. Your money stays local. If your community is strong, you are better off and much safer. Support your local farmers so that they can keep you fed and healthy.
  • 7. You get enmeshed in your community. Meet local gardeners and farmers, visit the local organic co-op, go to a canning or earthquake preparedness workshop. Enlarge your circle of connected people.
  • 8. You do not have to be a drain in times of stress. In an emergency, the elderly and injured will need all the help they can get. If you can look after yourself, you will not needlessly drain a system that may not have much left to give.
  • 9. Personal resilience. Well-prepared people have an edge when handling and recovering from emergencies and trauma. That can't hurt.
  • 10. Being a new community asset. In times of stress, we will need many well-informed, experienced people to spread throughout the community. You may be one of them!
  • How to get food secure
    According to Wheeler it just takes some planning and a change of routine to become more food secure.

  • Start off with a pantry stocked with enough dry and canned goods for a couple of months.
  • Start the zero-mile diet. Growing food in your garden is cheap and satisfying.
  • Start freezing, drying or preserving fresh summer produce so you have some food in lean winter months and you won't have to pay $5 a head for broccoli in February.
  • Support local and organic farmers. You'll know what's in season (and therefore cheaper) but you'll also know who is producing your food which gives you more security than buying from unknown overseas sources.
  • Learn how to cook from scratch -- it's cheaper and more nutritious for you.
  • Expand your diet to include new foods that are local or grow wild.
  • Stop relying on the big box stores that have to ship everything in for afar, their prices are fluctuate just like the price of oil.
  • Start sharing your resources with friends and neighbours.