VFTP blog post by Roxci Bevis
November 7, 2018
The fall season is fully upon us: pumpkin spice flavoured everything, leaves changing brilliant colours and falling from the trees, and of course the fun and memorable costumes of Halloween have come and gone and the holiday season is on its way. An exciting time for some, but as we get into the colder stretch of fall and head into winter, it’s important to keep in mind that lots of people in our community need help accessing affordable basics, like healthy food, let alone the luxury items of fall and winter some of us may take for granted. Food security only exists when all members of a community have access to affordable healthy food at all times; though we know in Vancouver there are many households that need support accessing healthy food throughout the year. With the rising cost of living it is getting harder and harder for local families to regularly access fresh quality food, especially in these colder months as harvesting season ends, electric bills rise, and seasonal holiday costs approach.
Weather forecasts suggest that our upcoming Canadian winter is going to be long and chilling -so brutal, to say the least. We know it won’t be as bad in Vancouver as the rest of Canada, but it will still be cold and we will still see some snowy freezing periods this winter. BC Hydro rates went up 3% in April this year – 10.5% the since 2016 – and with this winter expected to be another cold one, electric bills will be even higher than usual for most. Rental rates are at an all-time high and the maximum allowable rent increase was just approved for 2019 at 4.5%, compared to 2016 at just 2.9%. The skyrocketing cost of living in Vancouver directly impacts many individuals and families, who up until just a few years ago were able to afford living in Vancouver; now leaving some with a tough choice of paying electric, gas, and water bills each month or being able to afford healthy quality food.
When families struggle to afford basic living expenses food quality is often the first necessity given up. There are countless cheap processed and refined food options available, making it easy yet not ideal, to replace more expensive nutritious food with cheap unhealthy alternatives in order to pay other mandatory bills. Though, as most nutrition research shows, our overall health suffers when we do not have access to a healthy balanced diet. A lack of nutritious food over long periods of time can also lead to major health concerns, even disease. It is never okay for an individual’s health to suffer because they cannot afford healthy food and this is a growing concern for many Canadians. Approximately 12.7 per cent of Canadian households experience food insecurity, according to PROOF, a research group studying policy options to reduce the problem. As Global News also reported last month, a new survey suggests that more than half of British Columbians are living paycheck to paycheck, especially in Vancouver where the cost of living is so high.
In our current economic state, it is more important than ever that communities come together to support those in need. In a dream world, our city’s food waste and food security policy would reflect the needs of every resident while managing the environmental impacts of food production; allowing for minimal corporate food waste by ensuring those in need have safe access to this food before it is wasted and ensuring all members of the community have fresh healthy food every day. The City of Vancouver does have a relatively robust Food Strategy: a plan to improve our food system to make the city more equitable, sustainable, and economically healthy. The Greenest City initiative also aims to have Vancouver become a global leader in urban food systems by 2020. These programs are moving us in the right direction, but more policies are needed to ensure there is no corporate food waste and that there is food security for all residents in our growing city. Until this can be achieved, there are ways concerned citizens can get involved to help guarantee no one in Vancouver goes hungry this winter.
Here are 5 easy ways you can make a difference in our community right now:
- Donate food items to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, you can check out their list of most needed items, but everything helps! Not able to get to the food bank? No problem. Look out for donation boxes setup throughout the holiday season at local grocery stores – you can even buy a few extra non-perishable items while you’re shopping and leave them in the donation bin on your way out.
- Volunteer your time to ensure others don’t go hungry. There are several organizations you can get involved with in the lower mainland. Food sharing programs, soup kitchens, advisory committees, community gardens, educational events, the list goes on.
- Hold a fundraiser to raise needed funds for a non-profit, charity, or family you know in need. Here are 10 easy ways to fundraise.
- Write, call, or email your MLA: share what you want supported when it comes to food security, food waste, and universal basic income policies in Vancouver.
- Have your neighbours and friends rally together with you to ensure that local grocery stores, hotels, and restaurants are donating all leftover food to a food sharing program, charity, or people and families in need. It is not required that corporations do this right now and A LOT of edible food is wasted at grocery stores and restaurants every single day in our city.
These are just a few of the things anyone concerned about our community’s food security can do to get involved and make an impact. Having to choose between paying rent and electricity or buying healthy groceries is a burden many families face at least once each month, and the difficulties grow for many during the winter season. Food insecurity is also increasing locally due to Vancouver’s rising cost of living and intensifying housing market. 26,500 people currently access the Food Bank each week in Vancouver; 20% of these people are children and 19% of these people are seniors. Though efforts are made by the City, local charities, and caring individuals alike, we still don’t have food security in Vancouver. Continuing to work towards a future where every resident in our city has access to healthy food every day can only make our community stronger. If we all take action, no matter how big or small, we can ensure everyone in our city has access to fresh healthy food.
About the Author:
Roxci is a freelance content writer and community engagement specialist, with a background in volunteer program management, the non-profit industry, and business administration. Roxci has not only lead multiple volunteer teams across the lower mainland, she has also been a volunteer in the community for over 20 years herself. Dedicated to supporting at-risk youth and working towards food security for all in our city, she’s passionate about fostering a sense of community and helping others overcome social and political barriers.