Food. It’s a hard fact that there are many Yukoners, young and old, who are unsure where their next meal will come from. Discussion at this year’s Poverty and Homelessness Action Week shed light on the rising demands on the Whitehorse Food Bank
Food programs across the city are stretched to their limits. Access to fresh and healthy food is becoming more and more challenging for many Yukoners and in particular, for those who are isolated and living in poverty.
The Yukon Legislative Assembly made a notable contribution to food security in Yukon at the beginning of November. Bill 42, the Food Donation Act, was passed unanimously. This bill aims to increase the protection from liability for an individual or organization that donates food in good faith. This means that anyone from a local farmer to a large supermarket can breathe easy when they drop their donations of fresh produce or yogurt or canned food at the Salvation Army or the Food Bank.
While the passing of the Food Donation Act is an important step, comments have been made that the act was passed through quickly for the holiday season. This in itself is a wonderful thing, however, the assumption that individuals are hungrier at Christmas than they are other times of the year is simply wrong. People need to eat 365 days a year and so we urge those in a position to donate food, to do so at Christmas and to donate throughout the year as well.
Food security was front and centre this past summer with the Alaska Highway washouts. While food and other essentials flew off the shelves at local supermarkets, it seems that little thought was given to those isolated and living in poverty. It also brought attention to just how heavily Yukon communities rely on food being shipped in from out of territory.
There are many committed farmers growing food in Yukon. It is crucial that the efforts of these individuals be validated and encouraged. Speak up and let your MLA, MP and other leaders know that you want more resources to be put into local food initiatives. Get to know the farmers and food producers in Yukon. Call for the protection of wild space so the tradition of hunting and gathering among First Nation, Inuit, and Metis will remain intact.
It remains to be seen how the passing of the Food Donation Act will impact the quantity, quality, and range of food that is donated to local organizations in need. While time will tell, it is certain that this is a step in the right direction for a more food-secure Yukon. The coalition also challenges Yukon leaders to proceed with the development and implementation of a food security strategy. This action would send a clear message to the community – that the human right to food for all Yukoners is a priority for the Yukon government.
Kate Mechan is an active member of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. She recently received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award for her work with the Boys and Girls Club and the Northern Cities Supportive Housing Coalition.