Food Security

Since I’ve given up on owning a car, I’ve often remarked how my expenses on consumables has gone up. I don’t go to discount grocery stores because they’re too far away, and I often make small purchases at convenience stores, because they’re more convenient to get to (hence the name, eh?). This has overall been better for my health, because the grocery stores and markets close to me have better quality produce, so I buy less but eat better. Also, if I am buying something at a convenience store, it isn’t much, so I’m consuming less (convenience stores have expensive chips! no deals on 3 family packs of chips – and then being surprised that I ate them in only a few days!)

Not owning a car has been good for my health, good for my wallet in terms of not paying for gas and insurance, but bad for my wallet in terms of my increased price of food. Overall I’m spending less, and I have an income that allows me to not have to worry about my increasing cost of consumables. Which leads me to my next wonder – how do people living in poverty do it? Often they don’t own a car because they can’t afford it, and often they live in areas like me – urban – where good quality fresh produce isn’t cheap, there are no sales on standards like bread, you can’t buy things in bulk because you have neither the transportation nor storage space, and you’re left with expensive kraft dinner at convenience stores because that’s closest.

Even in the apparent mecca of local food that the Waterloo Region is, there are still food deserts. Now let’s get technical with a definition and an infographic here:

Food Desert references an area where residents lack access to affordable fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat milk, legumes and other food that constitute a healthy diet. Grocery stores are either inaccessible to these shoppers due to high prices and/or inadequate public transit. As a result, residents buy food and drinks from gas stations, fast food restaurants and corner stores, which primarily sell processed food. This often leaves these individuals at risk for obesity, diabetes and chronic illness.

Food Desert - courtesy of

Food Desert – courtesy of

I would like to hear comments – what neighbourhoods in KW could be considered food deserts? What could we as Transitioners do to help these communities? There are lots of ideas already out there – for example in Toronto, FoodShare Toronto started up a green grocer food truck to sell to low-income neighbourhoods; a small town in the UK started up Incredible Edible Todmorden (now being emulated in Waterloo – see FB page for details);  or the Working Centre has the Hacienda Sarria Market Garden; to name just a few. What other ideas are being tested, and what ideas have yet to be tried out?

And to add to this “food for thought” – here is a video you could share with friends about what food security means:

Food Security from lexicon of sustainability on Vimeo.


About Sylvie Spraakman

Environmental engineer, environmental activist, and community volunteer. Loves KW!
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