Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Alison Blay-Palmer Nourishing Ontario Research Group, Canada


Nourishing Ontario Research Group in Canada has been exploring and documenting food system sustainability with over 100 community food projects across the province. Our research points to common problems that stem from globalization pressures while the solutions need to be place-based.  Each region has its own assets and challenges and as a result will confront food and nutrition security in its own ways. We find that three key approaches tend to emerge as potentially promising:

1. Avenues to scale up community food and nutrition initiatives founded on sustainable diets by improving urban and rural linkages;

2. Building food system resilience as a form of community development including the identification of complementary urban, peri-urban and rural food production, processing and distribution opportunities; and

  1. 3. Improved land access/tenure.

Our international conversations confirm these key issues to be similar regardless of the extent to which a country or region is industrialized. Transforming the current food system into multiple, place-based, people-centered regions that are sustainable, locally-reliant and resilient has to go hand-in-hand with improving access to nutritious, socially and culturally acceptable food. Moreover, given that most of the world's population now lives in cities, city-regions require more attention as the connections of cities and rural spaces become increasingly important for ensuring both access to food and viable farm income. (See also our general comments below).


  1. For the proposed indicators a, b, and e: 100% access to adequate food all year round; zero stunted children less than 2 years old; and zero loss or waste of food; these indicators are excellent; zero waste may be an impossible target, but is nevertheless and important direction
  3. For the proposed indicator c (all food systems are sustainable): defining food system sustainability is very difficult so developing metrics would be very challenging.  If this is attempted, it would be important to ensure that indicators capture small-scale ecologically resilient food production, processing, distribution and sales in rural, peri-urban and urban areas. And, could this include measuring: human health related to food system access; social and community well-being; democratic community engagement/participation?
  5. For the proposed indicator d, 100% increase in smallholder productivity and income.  What baseline data would be used to measure 100%?  It would be important to measure this for rural, peri-urban and urban areas.



Our research points to common problems that stem from globalization pressures while the solutions need to be place-based.  Each region has its own assets and challenges and as a result will confront food and nutrition security in its own ways.  With this in mind, our approach to supporting communities has been to document innovative case studies and best practices and provide information about the processes that can help move communities towards increased food system sustainability. As much of our work is focused on understanding what makes some food initiatives successful and finding ways to replicate, adapt, and scale up those successes, we have produced an online toolkit and expect to continue adding resources as our work expands. The models and practices needed to transform the food system already exist, and we need to find ways to make them central, rather than marginal, to how we produce and access food.  

Earlier this year Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, was in Canada and observed that: “Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty. Yet... What I've seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and Aboriginal non-Aboriginal peoples” (SR FOOD). At the same time farm income and the number of farms (and thus farmers) in Canada is decreasing, while farm debt and the average age of farmers are increasing (National Farmers Union). Accessibility and farming are not separate issues, rather, they are distinct but intertwined consequences of a problematic food system. Governments are often identified as obstacles to transforming that system due to policy designed for an industrial and trade-based food system. There is now a pressing need for governments at all levels to act as facilitators for local sustainable food systems and improved, more equitable food access.

We want to highlight Graziano da Silva's recent comments (at the release of FAO's The State of Food and Agriculture 2012): “We need to assure that the investments meet a certain set of conditions that assure that they contribute to food security and sustainable local development.” We add that sustainable local development includes the collaborative development of regional urban markets for agricultural production, as a means of stabilizing and providing a secure source of both income at the farm level, and food and nutrition security for vulnerable populations in city-regions.

(On behalf of Nourishing Ontario)

Alison Blay-Palmer, Phil Mount, and Irena Knezevic