Food Security and You
“And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
We all have made to think that food is around the corner: if further, you just take your car to the nearest supermarket and buy what you need, right?
Supermarkets and grocery stores in North America are full of food, sometimes food from all around the world: we are used to find bananas and mangoes in the middle of the winter and apples in summer. If you want to cook Indian, Chinese or Venezuelan food, there are plenty of specialized grocery stores and some of the products can be found at the local superstore. They are not even expensive…
So if I tell you that our food security is threatened, you may ignore or laugh at me. It is understandable.
However, let me tell you a story: as a current student of sustainability and environment, I have learned a few things that may be of your interest.
Did you know?
- According to the last Canada census (2011), Canadian farmers are 55 year old and older!
- Less than 3% of Canadians are farmers
- The average meal in North America travels 1500 miles from farm to plate
- Supermarkets keep a three-to-seven-day inventory
- Colony Collapse Disorder (basically means that bees are dying) is believed to be linked to pesticides. Just this year, bee colonies have depleted in 40-50%. Bees are important pollinators. Without bees, we can grow fewer crops as pollination is expensive and takes a lot of work.
- Production and transportation of food depends on oil. If oil is scare or costly, so will be food. The cost of food is directly proportional to the cost of oil and the use of certain crops for other means, such as biofuels, etc.
- From all Earth’s surface, about 38% is occupied by agriculture. The rest is land that is covered by cities, roads, deserts, tundra, mountains, forests and land unsuitable for agriculture. From this, 26% is used for pastures (to raise livestock for meat). Some of the agricultural lands are used to produce biofuel.
- More than 75% of the seeds diversity has been lost in the last 100 years as people no longer save seeds nor grow food
- Lack of diversity in vegetables and fruits create dependence on a few varieties. If a disease or a pest strikes, lack of diversity makes species vulnerable to disappear forever
- We have managed to increase the amount of the groundwater we use for irrigation and mining purposed, this is quickly depleting aquifers and underground rivers and lakes. Groundwater represents approximately 30% of the available fresh water on the planet, with surface water accounting for only one percent. The rest is locked up in glaciers and the polar ice caps.
- Factors such as droughts and floods affect the availability and quality of food, and they are expected to increase as a result of Climate Change.
- Illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and many other chronic diseases are directly related to the type and quality of food we eat
- Most children don’t know where the food comes from and haven’t seen a vegetable grow
- Food waste creates more carbon emissions which in turn exacerbates climate change
- Topsoil is disappearing and its quality decreasing. Without topsoil, we can’t grow food
- Corporations have created new hybrid seeds that resist pests by becoming pesticides themselves. They are called GMO or genetic modified organisms. They are in many of the food you and your children eat every day. GMOs have proven dangerous as they develop cancer and other conditions in laboratory rats.
With all that information in mind, it is easy to become overwhelmed. The food system we currently use is unsustainable and weak. It can break and it has broken up in other countries. It is a matter of time (and risk) when and how it will happen here, in the land of abundance…
Are we powerless?
This is my deck last summer full of vegetables and a place to read…
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,
the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”
~ Bill Mollison
No, we are not. There are many things you can do as an individual, both for you and your family:
- Learn how to grow your own food. It is cheap, healthy, easy and fun. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. Here
- Join a community garden. If you can’t find one, start one! The City of Surrey provides the land, water and starting coaching for groups of 12 or more committed citizens that approach them: here
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This way, you support local farmers while eating healthy. Check for markets here
- Buy local and use your farmer markets (use City of Surrey buy fresh/local guide):
- Eat less eat or become vegetarian.
- Eat organic and local grown food
- Learn to preserve food (by canning and other methods)
- Build a pantry and stock enough non-perishable food for your family for 1-6 months.
- Harvest and reuse rain water: here
- Save water at home: here
- Learn how to save and preserve seeds: here
- Make a goal of not wasting food. Learn how to cook with leftovers and buy only what you need so food doesn’t go rotten.
- Compost your kitchen scraps (if you live in a townhouse or condo, you can use a vermin-composting system or make your own, if you have a yard, you can use a bin or buy a Earth Machine Composter from City of Surrey for $25 here
- Have some yard or big deck? Encourage bee population by “adopting” Mason bees: here
- Learn more about bees and their importance to humans at the Surrey Bee Center: here
- I don’t have time: I grow vegetables and herbs at home (from seed). If I can do it, you can do it!
- I don’t have a yard: I live in a townhouse. I grow my veggies in containers.
- I don’t know how to do it: there are plenty of free books at the library to start learning. There are workshops in many nurseries and community centres. There are people ready to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with you
- It is not allowed: some areas have by-laws that don’t allow you to have livestock (chickens, goats, etc.) or grow food in backyards (this is common in townhouses and condominiums). But you have options: grow food in balconies and decks (using containers), join or start a community garden at your neighbourhood or at work.
What are you waiting for?
“Food security is not in the supermarket. It’s not in the government. It’s not at the emergency services division. True food security is the historical normalcy of packing it in during the abundant times, building that in-house larder, and resting easy knowing that our little ones are not dependent on next week’s farmers’ market or the electronic cashiers at the supermarket.”
~ Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World