Alphabet City Discussion Three: Food as a Right

Is access to good food a human right?

Alphabet City Discussion Three:
Food as a Right

The last discussion in our Alphabet City series focused on “Eat Local”. Now we want to examine the economic factors that underpin many of our edible decisions, whether it’s eat local, eat organic, or eat Kraft Dinner.

Living in an urban or suburban environment in Canada means you have any type of food at your fingertips nearly any time of year. The awareness of food seasonality seems to fade away. But among this bounty, nesting within our larger urban and suburban centres are “food deserts” where no restaurants or grocery stores have taken root, or where the nearest source of fresh produce is a long bus ride away. Below is a map of such deserts in the Greater Toronto Area (food desert areas depicted in yellow).

A common tool to compare the prices and thus, in essence, the availability of food in a geographic region — whether urban or suburban, Canadian or Burmese — is the “food basket.” A food basket is nothing more than a collection of typically common food products and their prices. We’ve dug up examples of food baskets from around Canada to help illustrate the differences in cost of food. See below:

Food Basket in Northern Canada

Food Basket in Saskatchewan

Food Basket in Toronto (PDF)

Food Basket in Rural Ontario

We want to know more. For instance, what happens when you add organic produce to the equation? Can eating organic, and presumably healthier, actually work across Canada, or even across neighbourhoods in a single city? How do the specifics of where you live determine what is going to be served at your dinner table tonight?

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5 comment(s)

ChrisOctober 19, 2007 10:38 EST

The one issue that I have noticed within this stream is food as a right for the end users (well eaters). Taking this from the other side, non-local farmers produce goods primarily for an export based local and national economy. How would they see or react to the eat local movement? It is understood that North American big business is involved in most these markets, say bananas. In the end the money (what small amount of it the farmer actually gets) does provide a livelihood for someone far away. By our own changing tastes or food politics we are not only changes our own local economies but are changing others around the world.

RickWOctober 24, 2007 19:49 EST

Food might well be a right, but is unrestricted reproduction of the human race also a right?

LynnOctober 26, 2007 13:38 EST

RickW, isn't that why we're here. That whole survival instinct thing- to me, that's not about rights, that's about species survival. If we all ran around worrying about our right to reproduce, humanity would have died out long ago and you wouldn't be here. For better or worse, that's the fundamental drive underlying our presence here on earth. It ain't pretty or glamourous or even a particularly mighty pursuit, but it's all we've got.

RickWNovember 01, 2007 19:50 EST

Unrestricted reproduction AND unrestricted access to food? 'Tis a very fine (and scary) path one treads with those two requisites.....

Culinary travel guideDecember 23, 2009 19:55 EST

eating organic is an new idea and sound interesting

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