Re: “B.C. should guarantee right to food security,” Jan. 14.
I wish Trevor Hancock had gone one step further.
While the answer to hunger and food insecurity might appear to be food, it is not. It is a matter of income poverty and the need for adequate wages and welfare benefits.
The 2005 B.C. provincial health officer’s annual report made this point, stating that the inability “to afford nutritious food in B.C. includes higher costs of a basic ‘market basket’ of items, higher housing costs, inadequate social assistance rates, increased levels of homelessness and a minimum wage level that can result in even full-time workers … falling below the federal low-income cut-off.” This analysis reflects federal and international data.
While the 2005 study was the result of an inter-departmental consultation committee, it did not include the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance.
Regrettably, the 2013 Ministry of Health’s Evidence Review of Core Public Health Functions for B.C., while stating that “low income has consistently been found to be the best indicator of food insecurity,” makes no recommendations to introduce a living wage or raise minimum-wage levels and welfare rates.
Perhaps the first step in a Food First strategy for B.C. would be for the minister of health to have a conversation with the minister for employment and income assistance and then include Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Housing, Children and Family Development, Jobs and Finance.
We need to change the conversation. We have the information. Must we wait another 10 years?
Emeritus professor of social work
University of B.C.