Food Resources - Course
Food has a large impact on sustainability (i.e., environment,
economy and social aspects). Food systems include production,
processing, distribution, consumption, and waste disposal. About one
third of households' total environmental impact is related to food and
drink consumption. This large impact is from the indirect or direct
effects of livestock agriculture and food industry on water, soil and
air, the overuse of fish resources, the increase of food transport and
packaging waste. Also, industrial food systems have a strong dependence
on fossil energy with seven times the energy (typically fossil fuel)
being consumed for every unit of food energy produced. There is thus a
need to work with natural processes to conserve all resources, minimize
waste, and lessen food's impact on the environment, as well as its
social and economic aspects.
"Community food Security is a condition in which all community
residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate
diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self
reliance and social justice" (Hamm and Bellows, 2003).
About 10% of Canada's population is food insecure at some time during
the year, meaning they are not sure where their next meal is coming
from. Food insecurity takes other forms that affect the whole
population, such as unhealthy food, displacement of people and
disruption of culture, loss of farmland and increasing dependence on
food imports. This course will explore the many components of this
problem, alert you to solutions and progress, and will help you develop
knowledge and skills that will increase your understanding and your
ability to become a change agent.
This class will ask: Why is the food system unsustainable? If
food is plentiful and cheap, why do people lack nourishing food? The
following issues will be explored:
- Dependence of agricultural on fossil fuel in Canada and
- Total cropland acres are decreasing.
- The rate of groundwater withdrawal exceeds recharge rates
in many major agricultural regions.
- Nutrient runoff is creating water pollution and hypoxic
- Less than 20% of corn, soy, and cotton plants were
genetically engineered in 1996; by 2007 between 40%-90% were (varies by
- Despite a tenfold increase in insecticide use since 1945,
crop losses due to insect damage have nearly doubled.
- Agricultural activities in Canada are responsible for
almost 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2006.
Indigenous land rights
- Environmental health concerns of indigenous people tied to
colonization of diet and poverty.
- Ignoring historical indigenous agricultural practices
favours colonization and land usurption
- Industry pressures - sugar, chemical companies, biofuel
- Calorie rich-nutrient deficient supports - government
- Globalization of companies and flight of jobs keep wages low
- Farm subsidies focus production on a few commodities, like
corn and soy
- WTO and the dumping of crops in developing countries
- Consolidation in the food industry, making it difficult for
small farmers to sell their crops.
- Consolidation of farms, squeezing out many local farmers
- Loss of farmland to erosion and development
- Collapse of small towns dependent on farming,
Food access issues
- Cheap, processed food makes people obese and sick
- Supermarkets are missing in rural, northern, First nation
and inner city settings
- People have lost basic cooking skills and connection with
Are there solutions?
How can people become more self-reliant and improve their food skills?
How can the government affect the availability and affordability of
How can we save local communities, and preserve agricultural land?
How do we learn from Indigenous wisdom?
How can the food available become nutritious rather than fat and
In what ways can we build community around the basic necessity
of food that in turn creates creative solutions to community problems
and helps create resource opportunities and know-how?
The course educational objectives
- Analyze sustainability of food resources.
- Discuss sustainable livelihoods in food production and
- Assess community food security.
- Discuss the different options for sustainable agriculture
and sustainable food and the role of environmental farm plans and
- Consider and assess interventions to improve sustainability
of food resources.