World Food Day emphasizes importance of sustainable food systems

By: Kate Hawkins

October 16 marks this year’s World Food Day, “the one day a year when people all over the world are invited to reflect on the importance of food and agriculture, and especially on the fact that hundreds of millions of people are still chronically hungry in the world,” says Peter Lowrey, media relations officer at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

List of countries by percentage of population suffering from undernourishment. Photo provided by Dwrcan

By: KATE HAWKINS

List of countries by percentage of population suffering from undernourishment. Photo provided by Dwrcan

List of countries by percentage of population suffering from undernourishment. Photo provided by Dwrcan

October 16 marks this year’s World Food Day, “the one day a year when people all over the world are invited to reflect on the importance of food and agriculture, and especially on the fact that hundreds of millions of people are still chronically hungry in the world,”  says Peter Lowrey, media relations officer at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

This year’s World Food Day, which is the anniversary of FAO’s founding in 1945, is focussed on “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.” And there are several projects working to establish food security right here in Ottawa.

Food security is defined as a person’s access to safe, healthy food, something which is made easier through sustainable food systems, Lowrey says.

Sustainable food systems produce nutritious food in such a way that it will provide for both present and future generations, according to the FAO’s handout on World Food Day.

This is an idea that Ottawa’s Just Food organization is well acquainted with.

Just Food strives to create sustainable food systems in the city of Ottawa. Among their many projects is a start-up program for new farmers, a service to help businesses become breast-feeding friendly, and resources for finding locally produced food in Ottawa.

In addition to this, Just Food sponsors the Reel Food Film Festival, a yearly event promoting sustainable food systems.

Some of their most notable programs are the community gardens they build and manage through the Community Garden Network of Ottawa.

The gardens provide city-dwelling members with the knowledge to grow their own food, says Terri O’Neill, coordinator of the Community Garden Network (CGN). These gardens can also help offset high grocery bills by providing most produce needed on a daily basis, she says.

“The gardens are very beneficial for self-food security,” O’Neill says. “All the community gardens in the network are also encouraged to donate extra rows of produce to food banks.”

O’Neill says the community gardens are a sustainable option because they are grown  “organically, with no chemical inputs, no herbicides.”

“We use compost and water conservation techniques,” says O’Neil, adding that the CGN also organizes workshops on cooking and preserving food.

A similar setup can be found on the Carleton campus this year, thanks to the reestablishment of the Kitigànensag Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Community Garden.

“We try to give students and community members on campus a place to grow some of their own food to supplement their diets … we’ve become so used to the grocery store,” says Chris Bisson, project manager of the community garden at Carleton.

“Food is a human right and people should fight for it to be a human right that is available, nutritionally appropriate, and culturally appropriate,” he says.

For more information on food sustainability projects in Ottawa: http://www.justfood.ca/downloads/FoodLink2013_ENG.pdf

More information about Just Food and their projects can be found at: http://www.justfood.ca/

To get involved with the GSA’s Community Garden, contact Chris at communitygarden@gsacarleton.ca.

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