What is Food Security anyway?


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines three facets of food security:

  1. Food availability: having available sufficient quantities of food on a consistent basis.
  2. Food access: having sufficient resources, both economic and physical, to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  3. Food use: This means the appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

The Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) adds a fourth facet:

4. The stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time.

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”-UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Why does Food Security matter?

There is a clear and direct relationship between food insecurity, malnourishment and poverty. Chronic hunger results in an array of additional socio-economic challenges. What begins as malnourishment leads to an individual’s inability provide for their families, often leading  to a reduced ability to work, and give birth to and nurture healthy children. On a larger scale, these individual disadvantages undermines a region’s ability to social, environmental and economic sustainability.

“The number of people without enough food to eat on a regular basis remains stubbornly high, at over 800 million, and is not falling significantly.” -UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)”.

Is Canada Food Secure?

While chronic hunger is not generally thought of as a Canadian issue, we are part of a global economy, and an industrial food system, that perpetuates and exacerbates food insecurity in other nations.

Domestically, we are facing serious challenges to our health, stemming from all three facets of food security: availability, access and use. It is fundamentally important that we in Canada consider how we plan to feed ourselves healthfully into the future.

“Close to two and a half million Canadians are food insecure. Farmers and fishers are going out of business, our natural environment is being pushed to the limit, a quarter of Canadians are considered obese, and we are the only G8 country without a nationally-funded school meal program.”  – Food Secure Canada


How can we help make the Kootenays more Food Secure?

Good question. An important part of the solution is to grow, process and preserve more healthy foods closer to home. As consumers, we can buy from local farms and vendors, choose imported food from companies with a track record of integrity, and purchase products that are minimally-processed. Stores can ensure that people of all socio-economic demographics can access this food by offering the best possible pricing on healthy foods, providing education and support on subjects like cooking, shopping on a budget, growing food, nutrition and more. As citizens, we can prioritize ‘the care and feeding of all of us’ as a national and community priority.

“Did you know that a hundred years ago, the Kootenay region was a net exporter of food? Today we import well over half the food we consume. The average food item in North America travels somewhere between 1500 and 2500 miles by the time it reaches our tables. Our capacity to feed ourselves has become dangerously dependent on a globalized food distribution system that is vulnerable to a growing host of externalities. Local food security would institute a shift toward more locally based agriculture, food processing and distribution systems.”  -The Future of Food in the Kootenays


What is your food Co-op doing about it?

At the Kootenay Co-op, our Board of Directors, Management team and Staff are all lead by the Co-op’s mission which is, in part:

To promote community involvement by cultivating a cooperative, sustainable, organic way of life by providing the highest quality affordable natural and organic foods and encouraging a healthy local economy.


We have always interpreted this through a ‘food security lens’ by:

  • supporting local farmers and suppliers by encouraging sales of local foods and products (see pages 10 and 12-15 for examples).
  • supporting companies that conduct their business in a socially and environmentally responsible manner (like Camino, Bob’s Red Mill and others)
  • supporting consumers by providing the best possible price for healthy foods
  • supporting community health by carrying nutritious foods for people with a wide variety of dietary needs and restrictions
  • working in partnership with local organisations that seek to increase equitable access to food for all members of the community
  • providing free or affordable access to food information and educational opportunities

-On the Table, Spring Issue 2013.