Dr. Shirley Thompson -Natural Resources Institute
204‑474‑7170  |  s_thompson@umanitoba.ca

Food Resources & Community Food Security

From both health policy and population health perspectives current nutrition concerns centre around two main issues, which are actually inter-related. The first is food insecurity – a consequence of inadequate access (or threats to adequate) healthy food. In terms of quantity or quality. “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”(World Food Summit, 1996, p. 1). The second is obesity and its implications for chronic disease, which is ascribed to a combination of excess food energy intake and reduced energy expenditure through physical inactivity. While obesity points to issues around “over-supply” of cheap energy-dense food, the provision of sufficient accessible, affordable healthy food is a central concern for food security. Promotion of healthy living and chronic disease prevention are predicated on the ability of individuals and communities to make healthy choices. Having access to nutritious affordable food is one of the conditions required to make such choices possible but is unavailable to low income people due to lack of fresh fruit and vegetables and high costs (Field, 2006; Fieldhouse, 2005; Thompson, 2008).

High levels of food insecurity in northern Manitoba exist due to many factors including the isolation of remote communities, monopoly by Northern Stores, winter roads, high poverty rates, colonialization, and decline in country food consumption. This food insecurity reached a level of crisis when winter roads did not freeze over delaying the shipping of food for the last few years. Food insecurity rates are four times higher in off-reserve Aboriginal peoples in Manitoba than that of the general population with potentially higher rates on-reserve. A study undertaken by Health Canada in 2004 indicated that 9.4% of the general population in Manitoba are food insecure with much higher rates for the lowest income adequacy quintile (55%), social assistance recipients (62%), and Aboriginals off-reserve (33%). Food security is linked with negative health outcomes that include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.  Our research focuses on community economic development in northern Manitoba. Community-based food programming is one policy response to tackling food insecurity; to complement food and health policy and social policy (Power & Tarasuk, 2006; Power, 1999). These community economic development (CED) efforts to increase access to nutritious and local food include the NHFI’s community gardens, greenhouses and poultry production. Through sustainable agriculture, food justice, and community empowerment (Gottlieb and Fisher, 1996; Winne, Hamm and Bellows, 2003) local institutions, economies and networks are built to resolve issues of poverty, hunger, and inequality (Shragge, 1997 Winne, Joseph and Fisher, 1998; Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, 2007).