Failing With Food

Is our food system really that bad?

I guess that depends on what you think a food system is, and what it should do.

The agricultural systems in the US and Canada are extremely efficient at producing food. If fact, they produce an excess of food, even when exports are considered.

The food distribution systems within the US and Canada are efficient in delivering food to retailers except in geographically remote areas. Retailers efficiently sell food to consumers with means.

Consumers in geographically remote areas, such as the far north in Canada, and those without means struggle. The mechanisms for getting surplus food to needy people are not efficient. Food banks rely on donations and don’t always have enough to meet demand. The food that is donated doesn’t always represent the full spectrum of what is needed for a healthy diet.

Food Banks Canada conducts a survey in March each year called the Hunger Count. Last March, food banks were accessed 1.1 million times in that month. Nearly 60% of those using food banks rely on social assistance or disability payments as the primary source of income. One in six users is employed but not earning enough to cover the costs of food. Over one third of the people depending on food banks for sustenance are children.

These statistics fill me with shame because there is no justification for people to be going hungry in Canada. There is simply no political will to deal with the problem.

Apart from concerns about the health effects of the Standard North American Diet, food security is a big issue in North America, so I would say, yes, our food system rates a failing grade.

This article originally appeared on Quora.