This page aims to support health care professionals, local governments, and community organizations to participate in food security action and to support people living with household food insecurity.
Population Health Dietitians work with a variety of partners to support programs and policies that promote food security and food sovereignty for Northerners. Are you interested in working together or want to learn more? E-mail the population health dietitian inbox at PopHthNutrition@northernhealth.ca.
Food security is when:
- All people have access to food that is affordable, culturally preferable, nutritious, and safe.
- Everyone can participate in and influence food systems.
- Food systems are resilient, ecologically sustainable, socially just, and honor Indigenous food sovereignty.
Food security is a determinant of health for individuals, families, and communities. Many factors exist outside of an individual’s control and can act as barriers to food security. These can include climate, geography, economics, and social issues such as discrimination.
Elements of food security
Food security is made up of overlapping elements.
- A community is “food secure” when everyone obtains a safe, personally acceptable, nutritious diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes self-reliance and social justice.
- BC Farmers’ Market Trail - BC Association of Farmers' Markets (BCAFM)
- BC Food Security Gateway - Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and Public Health Association of BC (PHABC)
- Food Secure Canada (FSC)
- Food security Rapid Action Resources for local government - BC Healthy Communities (PlanH)
- Rural Remote and Indigenous Food Security in BC (PDF) - BC CDC
- The Coalition for Health School Food - BC Chapter
- Household food insecurity is when a household worries about or lacks money to buy the food they need to live well.
- The main cause of household food insecurity is insufficient income.
- Household food insecurity is a major public health issue that deeply impacts physical health, childhood development, and mental and social wellbeing.
- Individual and household food insecurity has greatest impact on people who are affected by discrimination and the on-going effects of colonialism.
- Household food insecurity in Canada - PROOF, Food Insecurity Policy Research
- Household food insecurity: Guidelines for health professionals (booklet) - Northern Health
- Household food insecurity: Guidelines for health professionals (one-pager) - Northern Health
- Social determinants of health and health inequalities - Government of Canada
- The affordability of health eating in BC (2022) (infographic) - BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
- Food systems include the many processes, policies and people needed to produce, transport, and enjoy food. Food systems also include the ways we dispose of or use our food wastes.
- Resilient food systems are flexible, have variety and diversity. They care about the health of the producers, the people, and the planet.
- We are all part of local, regional, and global food systems.
- Agriculture’s connection to health: A summary of the evidence relevant to British Columbia (PDF) - Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA)
- BC Food Systems Network (BCFSN)
- Food Systems: Our food, our health, our future (video) – World Health Oganization
- The Healthy Built Environment (HBE) linkages toolkit - Food systems (pg. 40) (PDF) – Population & Public Health, BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
- Food sovereignty can mean that all people have the right to choose and create their own food systems. All people have the right to access the foods they want using the methods that are important to them. Food sovereignty includes building a food system that is fair to all and protects food producers and the planet.
- Indigenous Food Sovereignty is essential to addressing food security and has no definition. Settlers and colonial systems need to support Indigenous Food Sovereignty through listening, unlearning and meaningful systems change. When invited, we strive to follow the lead of Indigenous leaders and organizations in food security and food sovereignty work. The Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty has outlined four key principles that guide Indigenous food sovereignty.
- Indigenous Food Systems Network - Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS)
- Planning for food security: A toolkit for the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF) - First Nations Health Authority (FNHA)
- Rural, remote and Indigenous food action grants - Northern Health
- Social determinants of Indigenous peoples’ health resources - National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (NCCIH)
Many actions from government, health care, communities, and individuals are needed to support access to safe, reliable, and nutritious food within a sustainable and resilient food system. The elements of food security rely deeply on each other. For example, a community cannot be truly food secure if some members of the community experience household food insecurity.
Food security strategies exist in three stages of action
Stage 1 strategies focus on immediate hunger relief. They do not address the underlying causes of household food insecurity, such as low incomes, and unequal access to food.
- Programs that connect those experiencing hunger to sources of food (emergency food charities, hot meal programs, and food hampers)
- Guidelines/tips for eating on a budget
Stage 2 strategies focus mainly on community food security and strategies that build resilient, healthy, and sustainable food systems.
- Food action-focused granting and the programs they support
- BC Farmers’ Markets - BC Association of Farmers' Markets (BCAFM)
- Community gardens, community kitchens
- Farm 2 School BC - Public Health Association of BC (PHABC)
- Good food box programs, bulk buying clubs, buy local events
- Local food networks
Stage 3 strategies look "upstream" at what our society needs to decrease household food insecurity and increase community food security. Action in stage 3 typically includes policy and system changes that support food security.
- A food policy for Canada - Government of Canada
- Together BC: British Columbia’s poverty reduction strategy (PDF) - Government of BC
- Food costing in BC 2022: Assessing the affordability of healthy eating (PDF) - BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
- Municipal official community plans and sustainability plans
- Food Policy Councils and Food Security Networks
- Supporting local and Indigenous foods to be served in public institutions
- Provincial and Federal Income Support programs
- Universal school meal programs