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global economy relate to food security and food bank use in Canada. There has been some exploration in the academic literature of the links between the changes in the global economy and food security. There have also been a couple of attempts to examine the linkages between the global issue of food security and the individual issue of food bank usage. This paper will examine this literature to examine whether or not there are linkages between the two.
There are a number of potential approaches that can be used to examine an issue such as this. Food security is a macro-level issue normally addressed on a societal or governmental level. As a net food exporter, Canada has no inherent food security issues. However, the urban environment does not produce much food, if any, and therefore the question of food security can be applied to cities. Cities inherently exist by producing wealth that can be used to acquire, among other things, food. Food security in the urban context therefore relates to the ability of the urban center to sustainably generate and distribute wealth. At the national level, the ability of the nation to produce food for the city to buy is a concern. Two premises are self-evident. Canada produces enough food to feed its people, and Toronto has sufficient wealth to buy the food it needs. Toronto ranks high in surveys among the wealthiest and most powerful cities in the world -- wealth generation is not an issue. This leaves wealth distribution as a critical issue at the city level that would affect food security. From a societal perspective, this is an important issue because of the nature of society's moral obligations to its members and the well-documented adverse outcomes of a lack of food security (Vozoris & Tarasuk, 2003)
One element of economic globalization is essential to understanding wealth distribution, and that is human migration. While globalization has encouraged free movement of goods and capital, restrictions on human migration have not been lifted to the same degree. People cannot migrate as quickly as goods and capital. There are specific reasons for this difference, and in Canada these relate to immigration policy. Immigration policy, in turn, is governed by the provision of social services. As long as there has been immigration to Canada, new immigrants face barriers to entry to society, and consequently have economic outcomes that are inferior to those of established citizens. Migration at the global level is therefore related to the ability of nations to distribute their wealth. While Canada has immense wealth, and food security, there are clearly issues with respect to the ability of the country to distribute that wealth in a manner that allows for food security for all. Those without food security are the users of food banks, a last, charitable resort for the provision of food security within a society. It is this linkage between global level economic change and micro-level outcomes (food bank usage) that this paper will explore.
Changes in the Global Economy
The idea of globalization reflects processes by which the world's people and nations become more closely integrated. These processes are driven by improvements in transportation, increased ease of communication and through direct action on the part of governments and corporations to build links around the world. There are hundreds of outcomes as the result of these changes, but a handful are critical to the issue of food security. The first is the change in agricultural usage patterns. Increased world trade has led to changes -- in some parts of the world quite dramatic -- in the way agricultural land is being used. Rosengrant and Cline (2003) note that crop yields have fallen in many areas and in other areas cash crops have forced out food crops. With less land under cultivation for human food crops and more people to feed, agriculture has become increasingly reliant on the use of fertilizers (Cordell, et al., 2009). There are already significant food security issues in many parts of the world, and many more are likely to have such issues in the future (Rosengrant, et al., 2001).
Climate change is another major issue caused by globalization that affects food security. Consumption of fossil fuels has resulted in climate change, and this process has been accelerated as globalization increases the wealth of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Increased wealth is correlated with increased carbon emissions. The problem with this from a food security perspective is that climate change is likely to reduce the amount of agricultural land. Large portions of the planet will see reduced habitability. Population increases and increased consumption are also creating water shortages in some places, another issue that is related to increased wealth and affects food security (Godfray, et al., 2010).
All of these outcomes of globalization affect food security globally. Food security -- or lack thereof -- has contributed to human migrations since humans first evolved. In a world with decreasing food security, it is expected that immigration from regions lacking food security to those areas that have it will increase. This is going to have significant outcomes for Canada, and for Toronto. Canada has always been a net receiver of immigrants, and it is well-established that the country's three major cities are the destination of choice for most immigrants. There are jobs in the cities, and support networks from those who have already immigrated. Cities are the drivers of wealth in modern human society, and the world has long been on a trend towards urbanization, even before modern globalization began. The new immigrant experience has always been challenging, even for those in the so-called majority (Toronto and Vancouver are both minority-majority cities). However, the high cost of living in cities drives new immigrants and the labourer classes to areas that are becoming increasingly ghettoized.
Spaces of Inequality
Unable to afford rents and housing prices in the central areas of Toronto, immigrants are usually forced to live in areas on the periphery of the city centre. Such areas include Scarborough, areas of North York away from Yonge St. And areas of York and Etobicoke. These areas also attract immigrants because immigrant communities are pre-existing, providing a better support network for new arrivals. In addition, social policy sometimes drives immigrants to these areas. There is more social housing in these districts, for example. In another example, Somali refugees were relocated to an area of Etobicoke that had a surplus of schools -- there was sufficient physical infrastructure in this part of the city to accommodate their needs.
However, such areas run the risk of becoming spaces of inequality. If a cluster emerges that has significantly lower income levels than other areas of the city, that area risks becoming what is known as a 'food desert' (Paez et al., 2010). Urban areas rely on the exchange of money for food as their means of establishing food security, but that system only works where there are viable food options. A food desert is an area where such viable food options do not exist, or where people do not have the means to make such exchanges. In some cases, there appears to be a mismatch between social assistance rates or wages and the cost of living. As a result, there is increasing reliance on charitable assistance in the form of food banks as a last resort source of food security (Tarasuk & Beaton, 1999). Tarasuk & Eakin (2009) note that structural issues of the food bank system render it adequate for the provision of such last resort food security services, relative to the demand for those services. Further, reliance on food banks is a significant barrier to good health (Tarasuk & MacLean, 1990).
Processes of Change
The processes by which globalization has created the current system are not particularly subject to change at any domestic governmental level. Arguably, Canada could do more as a member of the G7 to guide the path by which globalization occurs, but two of the three pillars of globalization (communication and transportation) are outside of the realm of even the most powerful supranational bodies. The more pressing priority, and a problem that can be tackled at the level of domestic governments, is to address the issue of food security within Canada. The issue is complex and "varies through a continuum of successive stages as the condition becomes more severe" (Bickel, et al., 2000). Tackling the issue of food security before it becomes severe is of utmost importance.
As noted, there is no reason for Canada to have food security issues. The country is a net food exporter and even its cities (which produce no food) have substantial wealth with which to buy food. The only obstacle to food security in Canada lies with the distribution of wealth. The food desert concept might reflect neighbourhoods with poor food options, but wealth will bring options into the neighbourhood -- a study of gentrifying neighbourhoods like the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver makes that abundantly clear.…[continue]
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