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Ending hunger – ‘You Just Start’

Participants reflect on how Food Aid, Food Security, and Food Sovereignty look in their local contexts.

July 27, 2016

By act

PWRDF, in collaboration with the Sorrento Centre, is holding its third food security course titled, Sharing Bread (Three), from July 24 to 30. Each day, staff and participants will blog about the experience. Today’s blog is written by Michael Shapcott, a participant who has worked for years on housing and hunger issues in Canada and internationally.

Food – it seems simple enough. We all eat it, every day. Or at least most of us, most of the time.

But many people in many parts of Canada go hungry, and are forced to line up at food banks for food aid. In other parts of the world, hunger follows on the heels of a natural disaster or conflict.

Participants at the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) Sharing Bread Three workshop are quickly discovering that something as everyday as food can quickly get quite complex.

We started the day with a simple prayer from Christian Aid in the UK:

We have food.

Others are hungry.

May we use the strength

This food gives

To work for justice.

Using the Fred Says campaign of PWRDF, people from across Canada and international partners from Bangladesh are sharing stories about:

  • Food Aid (such as charitable food banks run by many faith organizations across Canada, which provide people with basic subsistence);
  • Food Security (such as gleaning – when farmers allow people to make a second harvest of any remaining crops after their fields have been harvested commercially); and,
  • food sovereignty (such as community gardens, where people can grow their own food).

The goal of the food work of PWRDF is not simply to ensure people have enough food in a day to survive to the next day, but to help people to gain long-term access to healthy and affordable food, and to help them gain as much control over their food as possible.

To support that transition in a large, diverse country such as Canada is a challenge, and it’s also a major concern in countries – such as Bangladesh – where PWRDF works with its partners.

And that’s where, we learned, Hollywood star Matt Damon comes in. In a recent movie called The Martian, Damon played an astronaut who was stranded on Mars with a limited supply of food. Damon’s character, faced with a hostile environment and limited resources, started with a simple strategy:

“You just begin… You solve one problem, and then the next.”

Applying that determination, and the collective wisdom of Anglicans and our international and national partners, means that even a very complex issue like access to adequate food can be broken down and solved one step at a time.

Lack of access to healthy and affordable food doesn’t just leave a person hungry. It affects the physical and mental health of people. If they are not sick, a lack of food will likely make them ill. If they are sick, it’s much harder to recover good health without adequate food.

The morning began in a light-hearted way with popcorn and the launch of the PWRDF Home Movie and International Film Festival West, as the videos were screened (available on the PWRDF YouTube site) the participants began to develop a serious framework for a deep understanding of food issues.

That understanding is important to ensure that the measures we support truly help those who are hungry to gain access to food, not merely to survive, but control over their food so that they can thrive.

Workshop participants are using five days at Sorrento – where we are well nourished by meals that include produce from the Centre’s organic farm and sweets made with the honey from Sorrento’s bee hives – to share insights and experiences, learn from each other and hear about exciting and practical initiatives in Canada and internationally.