Ethan and Ashton were in Toronto in April, to network with the nation’s leaders in food security, at a National Food Security Symposium hosted by The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security.
The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security is a registered charity with a goal of reducing food insecurity by 50%, in Canada, before 2030. To achieve this goal, it funds projects by organizations like Food First NL that aim to improve access to food.
The symposium was preceded by a full-day partnership convening.
Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security Partner Day
The Centre’s “Partner Day” was devoted to knowledge transfer among Food First NL and 14 Canadian food security organizations that also have projects funded by the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security.
Ethan is our project manager for Everybody Eats, and felt there was great takeaway value in hearing how other organizations approach tackling issues of food security, and what has contributed to their projects’ successes, because this insight can be applied to our own efforts in improving access to healthy food in Newfoundland & Labrador.
The 2nd Annual National Food Security Symposium
The following day, the Centre hosted a National Food Security Symposium to advance action on household food insecurity – a pressing national issue that leaves 4 million Canadians struggling to afford food.
Economic access to food remains a serious concern in our province: we have the highest rate of food bank use by single-person homes in the country, for instance, and we know that food insecurity impacts many more people – beyond those visiting food banks.
As Paul Taylor, Executive Director of Food Share Toronto, expressed at the symposium, “Some of you might think that food insecurity only affects people on social assistance, but the reality is that 62% of food insecure people derive their income from employment. Canadians are working hard at paid jobs, and still not able to make ends meet."
For Michael McCain, Honorary Chair, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, the purpose of the event was “to share perspectives on what needs to change to ensure all Canadians, regardless of income, geographic, or health barriers, can reliably access healthy food.”
Encouraging momentum & Takeaways
Ethan was very encouraged by the breadth of people and calibre of speakers at the symposium, and what they had to say. The event united 160 voices from across the country.
“The number of policy-makers in the room was encouraging,” Ethan said. “Municipal, provincial, and federal governments were there in good numbers, and they were highly engaged in the discourse, which indicates that the issue of food insecurity is paramount in the minds and agendas of policy-makers.”
Ethan was also encouraged to see such strong representation and engagement from the business sector, including chief staff from companies like Walmart, Maple Leaf Foods, and Cisco. “In order to make significant changes, we need government, community, and big business to work together,” he says.
Ashton appreciated the emphasis on including people with lived experience when planning projects or policies pertaining to household food insecurity. To quote Adam Vaughan, a panelist, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Urban Affairs, “The question isn’t IF collaboration is good, but how we can get better at collaboration. This must mean including people with lived experience.”
Overall, the symposium reinforced the need to forge collaborative, cross-sectoral partnerships, that are capable of achieving policy and program reforms, and/or launching initiatives that will improve food insecurity. Partnerships like we have forged through the action groups assembled through the Everybody Eats project.