I work as a community food developer with the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, a Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network, whose principal mandate is supporting community members who are struggling to access healthy and affordable food. Our organization is interested in furthering systems change work that addresses the underlying causes of poverty and food insecurity. As part of this work, is the need to build awareness of food insecurity in our communities while exploring the relationships between the lack of food access and the many intersecting social policy areas, including income assistance, housing, health, etc. I see the Welfare Food Challenge as an important campaign to address one of the key policy areas that can help ensure that individuals who are on income assistance receive enough money to access food of their choice in a dignified manner.
Here is my Challenge experience …….Ian Marcuse
Yesterday, I went to the cheapest food store on Commercial Drive and put together a meal plan for the week. My biggest fear is that my energy levels are going to crash and I will not be able to work. My health is my biggest concern and I do not want to have to take time off work if I am feeling too tired. I need to work.
My meal plan is pretty simple – 1 cup of coffee with 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter or coconut oil for breakfast and rice and beans or rice and lentils or rice and hummus with a small handful of steamed veggies and a couple of olives for lunch, which I hope will carry me through the the rest of the day…no dinner…just one meal a day.
I am very aware that ordinarily I am able to eat high quality food and for which I am very grateful. I have also made personal choices that allow me to afford this food – I do not own or drive a car, I rarely fly or ever take expensive vacations, I live in a co-op, and I generally consume within my modest means. But because of my health concerns (and age of 55), I prioritize healthy eating.
And we know that food insecurity has its greatest impact on one’s health. In my work with the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, I have heard from many program participants, many who suffer various illnesses and who rely on food donations and who also describe getting sicker from the “charity” food they find, much of it high in sugar or refined carbs. Fresh produce, quality protein like fish, meats, and dairy are too expensive for a person on disability or income assistance or fixed pensions or low wage jobs. I know what ill health is and how precious good food is for me. I also understand how important good food is for everyone, no matter what your life situation. Certainly, those who are struggling the most, deserve this basic human dignity.