Stories about food these days are typically framed as environmental stories. How we can reduce our carbon footprint by buying local, or improve agricultural practices by choosing organic. Indeed, the universality of food has made it a highly effective vehicle for raising awareness about these important environmental issues.
But too often, this frame ignores social and economic realities. Heirloom tomatoes, farmers’ markets, and rooftop gardens are out of reach for those who struggle to simply keep a roof over their heads. Too often, it seemed, the good food movement excluded those in poverty.
The goal of this series was to explore food policy, and food security, through this social justice lens.
Much of my reporting was focused on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a neigbourhood often referred to as ‘Canada’s poorest postal code.’
It’s a neighbourhood in which an estimated 1.2 million free or low-cost meals are served every year. What I took away from this reporting was that there is a concerted effort underway to improve the quality of this food and also to involve the people who depend on it.
A surprising example of this paradigm shift was found in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church. The community there turned its typical soup kitchen into a sit-down dinner, choosing to nurture
quality of experience over quantity of people served.
Indeed, the notion of ‘charity food’ is being turned on its head, as poverty advocates and activists fight to frame hunger as a problem for government, not charities or non-profits.
One of the most shared articles was The Problem With Food Banks, a critical look at an institution which helps many people, no doubt, but which also depends heavily on high-carb, low-protein snack foods that grocery stores can’t sell.
It became abundantly clear to me over the course of this series what a difference good food, served with dignity, makes in people’s lives – spiritually, but also in a very practical sense. One of my favourite interview subjects was Karen Cooper, a researcher who is collecting
qualitative evidence to show how good nutrition can reduce violent crime.
My hope for this series is that it demonstrates that investing in nutritious food is not just an act of compassion, and community, but also good public policy.
Download a PDF of the complete series here: Growing Good Health