By: Dali Carmichael
Algonquin students and the Community Foundations of Canada came together to release the results of a community based data-collecting initiative.
The CFC held a press conference in front of first-year journalism students on Oct. 1 to release their newest Vital Signs report, Fertile Ground: Sowing the seeds of change in Canada’s food system.
The decision to release the report at the college was a result of a collaboration between the journalism program and the CFC earlier in the semester. Second year students will have access to the data behind the report for use in their Computer-Assisted Reporting class and in turn, the CFC can make use of the students’ work.
“Vital Signs is a way in which we research with the community quality of life trends: what’s taking place in our community, what’s working, what’s not,” said the CFC’s CEO Ian Bird.
The CFC collects data on a wealth of topics from 191 communities across the country.
“The beauty of the Vital Signs program is we are sort of radiating, picking (up) the pulse and deciding what the issue is,” said Lee Rose, director of the national CFC’s Community Knowledge Exchange initiative.
This year’s report focused on food security in Canada. It was compiled based on data collected from 26 communities throughout the country.
“Drawing all those threads together, those disparate pictures to create a snapshot of a moment in time is part of our response to those observations,” said Bird. “It’s our way to make a contribution.”
The major conclusions of Fertile Ground showed that despite the potential abundance of food available to Canadians, an overwhelming number of them were malnourished and faced food insecurity.
The principle cause of hunger or malnourishment was determined to be poverty, which can be strongly influenced by where Canadians are located geographically. About 3.9 million Canadians, including 1.1 million children, did not have access to regular, healthy meals.
For the first time, there are more obese people in the world than there are undernourished.
Additionally, Statistics Canada noted that between 2007 and 2012, food prices rose at about twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index, meaning that food has become about 19 per cent more expensive in the last five years.
Speaking of demographics that suffer from food insecurity, first nations communities were found to be the most affected. On average, about 25 per cent of their expenditures come from food costs, compared to the 11 per cent other Canadians spend. They are also three to five times more likely to develop diabetes.
There were some positive findings in the report. Canadians, with their ever-growing organic market, enthusiasm for local food and the emergence of young farmers, are creating more food secure communities.
As the sixth largest exporter and importer of agriculture and related products, they have the potential to lead other countries in improving global food security.
Following the launch, students and attendees were invited to ask questions. The CFC was asked about the future of the organic foods in Canada and young farmers in Canada and the politics of food.
In the future, second-year journalism students will be given raw data from the Vital Signs research to find their own trends and write their own stories based on them.
To download the full report, visit the Vital Signs website at http://www.vitalsignscanada.ca/en/home. There, you can also find local reports from the 26 contributing communities.