Nourish Kamloops hosted a day-long session which addressed the strong link between food insecurity and factors such as poverty and decolonization in the Mountain Room of the Campus Activity Centre on March 29.
The session facilitated interactive dialogue among community members and featured two-panel discussions on the topics: Indigenous food sovereignty and household food insecurity and poverty as one of the root causes of household food insecurity.
Cynthia Travers, a local Indigenous advocate, discussed the implications of food insecurity from her own lived experience.
“Food security was off the table,” she said. “I didn’t even know what that meant. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I actually found out that we were raised on welfare food banks.”
Travers added that food security is not a reality for “home-free” people —a term she used to characterize the homeless, because people in that position need housing and security before they could ever address their food issues.
“For me to say I have food security means I need to go back to the land and I’m growing it myself,” she added.
Travers also explained that food security is difficult for many to obtain without support.
“With the loss of JUMP (a volunteer not-for-profit organization on the North Shore) and our food share from JUMP and the farmer’s market, about 80 per cent of my food is now gone,” she said.
Adding to those sentiments, Melanie Kurrein, the provincial manager for food security at the BC Centre for Disease Control, stated that everybody should have the right to food.
Kurrein insisted that everybody should have the income they need to access “whatever food they need, in a way that works for them and supports their needs and culture.”
“Whether it’s to buy seeds for your garden, whether it’s to buy the things that you need to go and hunt or fish in your traditional lands (or) whether it’s to go to a grocery store because that’s your choice,” she added.
The panel also featured Trish Garner, the community organizer of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, who said that food insecurity must be addressed collaboratively.
“We need to take care of all of us in the community in a very broad sense of community,” she said. “It means that we need to work very hard to get over this divide between ‘them versus us’ that is set up both on an individual level, on a neighbourhood level but also on a structural systemic level through our policies and practices.”
Garner emphasized that in order to combat food insecurity, the underlying causes of the issue must be addressed at the root.
She shared that there are currently 487,000 people struggling, including children and single adults.
“You see it most visibly in the homeless population in our communities on an increasing level,” she said. “These are really the tip of the iceberg measurements of the issue, it’s very deep.”
Getting to the root of the issue, Travers said the best way to address food insecurity is to educate the younger generations.
“To fix the bridge plain and simple, you start when they’re born,” she said. “They need the support and they need the help. It must be ingrained in the school system, it must be ingrained in every part of our being that we must help our children first,” she stated.
The 2019 Nourish Program is an opportunity for participants to learn about existing initiatives as well as ways they can contribute to the national vision aimed at addressing the root causes of household food insecurity.