Producers and farm groups work with Feed Ontario to address hunger in our communities
by, Jackie Clark
Consumers celebrated World Food Day on Oct. 16, the Wednesday following Canadian thanksgiving, and those individuals who enjoyed a big meal have much to be grateful for.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization created World Food Day to draw attention to global issues of hunger and poverty. In Canada, about 1.1 million households are food insecure, a 2011-2012 Statistics Canada survey showed.
Across Ontario, producers are working with charitable organizations to address the problem.
Amanda King is the interim executive director at Feed Ontario, previously known as the Ontario Association of Food Banks. Its staff work to reduce hunger in the province.
Food insecurity is a spectrum, she explained.
“What we typically see is that folks who are experiencing severe food insecurity are the ones who are accessing food banks, as well as those who are on the higher end of moderate food insecurity,” she told Farms.com.
When it comes to filling in the gaps, the Ontario agriculture community is here to help. “Farmers are incredible supporters of their communities and of food banks across the province,” King said. “Many farmers work directly with their local food bank to provide ongoing food support.”
Producers donate of a broad range of food, including fruits, vegetables and meats, she said.
Commodity groups also provide assistance. The Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Dairy Council, and Ontario Milk Transport Association, for example, work together to produce, process, and distribute milk to food banks, King added.
“The need is ongoing, and it is a growing need,” King explained. “So, I think if a farmer, an individual, a community member or a business has the capacity to give, that’s an incredible thing to do.
“Farmers are extraordinarily generous,” she added.
Food banks want to address income insecurity, which is the driving force of food insecurity, King said. Ontario’s food banks have evolved into agencies which offer many services, such as skill-based training programs, resume writing workshops and job fairs.
“Ultimately, food banks want to work themselves out of business,” King explained. “Food banks have grown to meet the need. (But), in equal measure, we are actively working to reduce the need for food banks through strong public policy that ensures everyone has sufficient income to not go hungry.”
The Ontario agriculture industry is proud to help work toward that goal.BraunS/E+ photo