As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, our friends and neighbour are now facing a food cost crisis. Basic staples such as bread, fruits, and vegetables, have been priced out of many budget with their dramatic increased prices. In fact, the price of for food has outpaced consumer inflation. There are a number of objective and measurable reasons for this: supply chain disruptions, labour shortages, changes in consumer purchasing patterns, poor weather in some growing regions, tariffs, higher input costs, and higher wages. For those of us who wish milk went on sale like bottles of pop, these reasons sound like distant and abstract theories and concepts that don’t quite translate into our everyday lingo. Except maybe when we read about the mega-drought occurring in the southwestern United States where it’s the worst drought in at least 1,200 years and the impact of Russian invading the Ukraine on the world’s supply of sunflower oil.
So let’s make this real and take an everyday example into consideration. Here are the reasons why it may be unaffordable to have pizza after a long, exhausting work-week, even if you were budget conscious and decided to make it at home, you would notice that  ,
- Cheese has increased in price by 9.9%,
- Dough= Flour and flour-based mixes up 23.2%, Eggs up 13.8%, Butter up 20.2% and Fresh milk increased 11.5%
- Condiments which include tomato sauce, spices, and vinegar up 12.8%
- On average vegetables cost 11.0% more
- Meat 10.1%.
Is any wonder that in April of 2022, 43% of Canadians surveyed reported they are affected by food inflation; and 20% of us are very or somewhat likely to obtain food from community organizations in the next six months. The same report also found out that nearly three in four Canadians reported that rising prices are affecting their ability to meet day-to-day expenses such as transportation, housing, food, and clothing. A report produced by CARE in 2022, confirmed what every social worker in the world already knew:
Women have less food than men
In 2021, there were 150 million more women who are food insecure than men in the world. That is three times the population of Ukraine
Women eat last and eat least
The gap between men and women’s food security is growing.
One element of the food crisis that is close to home for us at Connect is the significant impact on single women, as they are disproportionately affected by the rising cost of food. Single women, especially those who are living alone and are low-income, find it even more difficult to afford enough food to meet their nutritional needs, and are forced to cut back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase. As such as increased stress and anxiety related to food insecurity can have a detrimental effect on their overall well-being and quality of life.
The 2021, Report Card on Child and Family Poverty showed Nova Scotia had the worst performance in over 30 years. What the stats do not show, and what we see is the intersectionality of poverty that we help women deal with every day. Which is why in October this year, Connect raised the flag of concern to our government officials, exclaiming the demand for food has never been higher. We talked specifically about how programs like Family resource Centres, Schools Plus programs while valuable often exclude single adults. We talked about how accessing food banks, especially in rural areas often comes with the high cost of personal dignity as it is likely someone you know working in the food bank. So we asked the government to:
- Take immediate action regarding the large scale and acute need for food in our communities that is not being met through present programs.
- We ask that Women’s Centres be recognized as resource in the battle against food insecurity. Our “One Door, Any Reason” philosophy, geographic coverage of the province and our connection to the community in need makes expansion of government support a sensible and efficient fit. So we ask for urgent and immediate funds to purchase and distribute grocery specific gift cards to women in need across Nova Scotia.
We realize and appreciate government’s intent to look upstream for population based solutions. The complex problem of food insecurity can only be addressed when multidisciplinary organizations and departments come together. Which is why Quebec has been able to roll out their food autonomy strategy, which resulted in direct investment of food processing and greenhouse operations. Now 72% of the local food sold in Quebec is at the same or lower price than imported food. New Brunswick is making similar investments in food autonomy and in just twenty-four months have gone from 3% to 11% of all food consumed by New Brunswickers came from New Brunswick. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia has lost more than a quarter of our farms we once had.
So, while March is nutrition month, we recognize that our co-workers and neighbours are going hungry, and that there are children who may not have empty bellies but they may be under-nourished as the price of good food is out of reach. Governments and organizations around the world are taking steps to address the food cost crisis and mitigate its impact on vulnerable populations, including single women. Connect is lobbying for upstream, and local action to address food insecurity in rural Nova Scotia. We offer our expertise and our Centres as resources, and supports in any and all efforts to provide financial assistance, increase food production and dissemination to improve access to healthy and affordable food options.