A word from FGM – January 2023

More than one quarter of adults in the Montreal region are experiencing hunger in the form of food insecurity, according to data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec. In other words, more than one person in four, either regularly or occasionally, has to worry about not having enough food until they receive their next inflow of funds. Others lack the means to have balanced meals, or do not eat sufficiently.

Food insecurity, which is rooted in poverty, has been exacerbated in our current context. Inflation has caused food prices to jump by 10% over the past year and the average rent in Greater Montreal has also skyrocketed, as we saw in the most recent edition of Vital Signs of Greater Montreal.

This means that households that already had difficulty feeding themselves due to lack of means are seeing their situation worsen. Others, despite having inflow like salaries or educational bursaries, are also facing food insecurity. According to Moisson Montréal’s Hunger Count 2022, more and more families, students or working people are experiencing a form of economic precariousness that is forcing them to ask for food aid. As a result, Montreal organizations that work to maintain food security had to respond to 25.8 % more requests for aid in 2022 than in 2021.

A process to find solutions

The Foundation of Greater Montréal sought to better support these organizations. To better understand the challenges they face, it spearheaded the Zero Hunger in Montreal project from 2018 to 2020. This ambitious process, which involved research, mapping of the food security supply network, and a mobilization of Montreal’s food security ecosystem, aimed to enhance knowledge of that ecosystem. Another goal was to foster collective strategic action — both in terms of funding and on the ground — to assist those suffering from hunger. It allowed participants to discern three specific areas of intervention: issues relating to the supply network, the financial health of food security organizations, and issues relating to collective action.

What, then, is Zero Hunger’s legacy, two years after its completion? In a chapter that I co-authored in État des lieux sur la philanthropie subventionnaire québécoise (2022), my co-authors and I review the project’s impact on the structure of Montreal’s food system. We point out, in particular, that it contributed to increasing the funding of actions that tackled food security issues. It also helped to reshape the conversation around the problem of hunger and strengthen collaboration among the actors in Montreal’s food system.

From reflection to action

Many organizations have over the past few years been involved in such collaborative projects, in order to strengthen the food supply network. One example is the food component of Montréal in Common, the City of Montreal program that stemmed from its successful candidacy in the Canada-wide Smart Cities Challenge. As well, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the implementation in several Montreal neighbourhoods of projects that involved the pooling of resources. They also led to the optimization of supply and distribution practices.

When it comes to food security organizations’ financial health, we still see a need to advocate for increased funding for their work. Just recently, the head of one organization took to the media to reiterate that funding for groups like his is still not adequate. He pointed out that Quebec government subsidies for his organization have only gone up by 2% in recent years. At the same time, the number of people in his sector who need help has quintupled.

On the collective action front, late 2022 saw an unprecedented event in Quebec. The first ever forum on territorial food systems (SAT Forum) brought together 400 representatives from every region in the province and from Indigenous communities. The event resulted in a joint statement, which in particular advocates for the consolidation and development of “inclusive, intersectoral” consensus forums and the creation of “effective networks for discussion of promising solutions among regions facing similar issues”. There is now a consensus around the idea that collective action can help in the fight to achieve food security. We must now work to ensure that the ecosystem’s actors have all the levers they need to move forward.

Éliane Brisebois, guest collaborator
Researcher, Chaire de recherche sur la transition écologique
Université du Québec à Montréal

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