Ensuring food security has always been an issue close to my heart. COVID has unfortunately worsened food insecurity – from “marginal” (being worried about running out of food) to “severe” (skipping entire meals).

According to the Region of Peel, one in seven individuals experience food insecurity. First-time visitors to food banks spiked by 26 per cent during the first four months of the pandemic. Yet simultaneously, the average Peel resident sadly throws out 40 per cent of the food they buy.

At its core, poverty is the root cause of food insecurity. The downside of living in such a beautiful region is that the housing market is hot – the average home price rose 14 per cent in the last year. The amount of residents working part-time, casually, or on contract has grown rapidly; in Toronto, one in 10 people work in the precarious “gig economy.” Finally, systemic barriers such as poor health or inadequate Canadian work experience contribute to a lack of employment, and subsequently, a dependence on Peel food banks.

Moreover, food insecurity follows a vicious cycle whereby poor physical and cognitive development leads to a reduced ability to work, leading to reduced income for food.

Different levels of government, non-profits, and businesses have worked collaboratively to tackle and address these issues. For example, the recently passed 2021 Budget was singularly focused on protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians. Accordingly, our government invested an additional $10.8M to protect Peel’s most vulnerable through the Social Services Relief Fund.

I want to applaud the resilience of our food banks, who have adapted to COVID by developing grab-and-go meals, grocery gift cards, and mobile services to protect our seniors and low-income residents.

On this note, I encourage everyone to do their part to end food insecurity by not wasting food or by donating to our local food banks. Let’s ensure our community can come together to support the most vulnerable among us during these tough times.

Food insecurity is an unfortunate reality among children, senior citizens, and adults in our community. The good thing is, if we all work together, it is a very solvable problem.