Sunday, March 8, 2015

Canada's Arrogant Blowhard Performance at 1996 World Food Summit

At the World Food Summit in Rome in November 1996, Canada joined 186 other nations to endorse the Rome Declaration on World Food Security, which in part, says:
"We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015."
We must remember that Canada hosted the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ("FAO") at Quebec City in 1945.  In 1945, Canada pledged itself to helping create a world that was free from hunger, free from want, with enough food for all.  I think that means Canada has significant responsibilities (to both ourselves and the rest of the world), to be a shining example for FAO, and the meeting of our FAO commitments.

The 1996 World Food Summit was 19 years ago this November.  There should have been more than enough time to develop a plan, start implementing the plan, check for effectiveness, then fine tune and adjust the plan for remedial effect and perfection.

When everybody left the Rome Food Summit, they were responsible to develop their national implementation plan.  It took 2 years for Canada to get its widely consulted plan defined and published; see Canada's Action Plan for Food Security (1998)

The Executive Summary of Canada's plan says it "...builds on a wide range of existing international commitments which affect food security, including agreements on international trade and environmental issues, conventions on human rights (including women's and children's rights), social development, education, housing and urban development. In addition, it builds on commitments and actions which flow from current domestic programs such as Canada's own Nutrition for Health: An Agenda for Action; Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan; revisions to legislation, including the Fisheries Act; and Canada's evolving economic, social and environmental programs and policies."

Canada's plan includes actions, both domestic (ie. for Canadians within Canada), as well as the donation of money, skills, and infrastructure to foreign countries to help them implement this important project for the citizens of these poorer countries.

Canada made it clear that cutting the number of food insecure individuals and households in half by 2015 applied both to within Canada and also to all of planet Earth when it said in the concluding remarks:
"All sectors of Canadian society will have a role to play in ensuring that food insecurity in Canada and abroad is reduced by half no later than the year 2015"

Canada declared 10 priorities, all of which sound pretty good.  However, how much did Canada get accomplished in the last 19 years?
Figure 1:  Between 2008 and 2011, household food insecurity has increased
by 8.8%.  Canada promised to cut it in half, but it increases by 8.8%. 

Unfortunately, there hasn't been many improvements for Canadians.

Small Flockers are standing by to help solve food insecurity for Canadians.  All we need is a relaxation of the government's oppressive and dogmatic regulations.

In Canada's 2004 interim report to the UN's FAO on progress made to date, Canada said:
   "The Canadian Community Health Survey on nutrition, conducted in 2004, observed that a total of 2.3 million Canadians were food insecure. More troubling was the fact that 715,616 Canadians, or 2.3 percent of the population, were food insecure and faced hunger. As detailed below, Health Canada will be releasing a full analysis of this survey later in 2006.
The Canadian Association of Food Banks’ annual report on emergency food programs, HungerCount, estimated in 2005 that more than 800,000 Canadians including more than 300,000 children under the age of 18 visited a food bank for charity food supplies in a typical month in that year. This was a decline of 0.1% compared with 2004; however, the Association pointed out that it represented a 24% increase in usage since 1997. Poverty is one of the leading factors which can impede access to sufficient safe and nutritious foods, and Canadians most vulnerable to food insecurity are those living in low income households, including a disproportionate number of single-parent mothers, people with chronic illness or disabilities, and Aboriginal persons."

Food Banks Vs. Food Insecurity

In 1981, Canadian charities began setting up food banks as a temporary measure to help
people deal with food emergencies.  From 1989 to 1997, the use of food banks in Canada doubled.

Figure 2:   Graph of Canadian Foodbank usage in Canada.  In 1996, Canada
promised to cut food insecurity in half before 2015.  Assuming that food
bank usage is an appropriate proxy for food insecurity, I don't see the 50%
reduction promised.  Another failure of the Federal Government of Canada.
In a 1998 study by the University of Toronto, they investigated the food security and nutritional vulnerability of a subgroup of food bank users in Toronto, women with children. The study found that the household incomes of 90% of the women participating in the study were less than 2/3 of Statistics Canada's Low-Income Cut-Offs (LICOs). Over 93% of respondents reported some degree of food insecurity over the past year, despite their efforts to supplement their food supplies by occasional use of food banks or to increase their disposable income by discontinuing telephone services or delaying bill payments. In addition to their own hunger, more than 25% of the women also reported that their children had gone hungry during the previous month. Further, a significant proportion of the women appeared to have very low dietary intakes of iron, magnesium, vitamin A, folate, protein or zinc.

In 2014, FAO reported:

"The latest FAO estimates indicate that global hunger reduction continues: about 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14, down more than 100 million over the last decade, and 209 million lower than in 1990–92. In the same period, the prevalence of undernourishment has fallen from 18.7 to 11.3 percent globally and from 23.4 to 13.5 percent for developing countries. "
"A most welcome message emerging from this year’s report is that accelerated, substantial and sustainable hunger reduction is possible with the requisite political commitment."

So for the world, there has been a 26% drop in the number of under-nourished people, while there has been an 8.8% increase in food insecure households in Canada.

 The 2014 version of Canada's HungerCount says:
"In 2012, nearly four million Canadians lived in food insecure households, of which approximately 800,000 lived in households that were severely food insecure"
Going from 2.3 million food insecure Canadians in 2004, to 4 million in 2012 shows things have gotten 73.9% worse, not 50% better.

That sad statistic is collaborated by University of Toronto PROOF report Food Security in Canada 2011, which says: 
"In 2011, 1.6 million Canadian households, or slightly more than 12%, experienced some level of food insecurity.  This amounts to nearly one in eight households, and 3.9 million individuals in Canada, including 1.1 million children. There were 450,000 more Canadians living in households affected by food insecurity in 2011 than in 2008."
Canada only has 9 months left for the deadline commitment they made with a "pinky swear" with all other countries.  Is there no honour paid to "pinky swearing" today?

Yesterday, I posted a petition to both Federal & Provincial Governments for helping relieve food insecurity for Canadians.  This should be a no brainer.

What should we think when an organization makes a commitment, fails to take appropriate action to achieve that commitment, refuses to admit its failings, and refuses to allow others to help them achieve this important goal, thereby indefinitely imprisoning those who are trapped by their circumstances.

Summary:   Canada made the commitment for food security improvements in 1996, little has been accomplished since then, SFPFC presents an opportunity for a quick win, will the government accept the offer?

What more do the politicians need to know?

Get cracking!

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