Post: Food and justice: Black Canadians and food insecurity​


Food and justice: Black Canadians and food insecurity

Written By: Winston Husbands, Anan Lololi, Julian Hasford, Zakiya Tafari

Among Black Canadians, hunger is increasingly the reward for our contribution to making Canada a rich country. 

In 2022, according to Statistics Canada, 38% of Black families were food insecure, which was twice the rate for white families and even surpassed the rate for other racialized families. But this is just where the story begins. For example, Black families with incomes above the poverty line are more likely to experience food insecurity that their racialized or white counterparts. Similarly, when a female is the major income earner in a family, four of every ten Black families are food insecure, which is way worst than among comparable racialized and white families. 

But 2022 is not exceptional. Year after year, national surveys document the crisis of food insecurity among Black communities. In 2021, for example, 6% of Canada’s Black population lived in severely food insecure households, compared to 3.4% of the white population. In 2017, it was estimated that 36% of Black children lived in food insecure households, compared to 12% of white children. 

Here is the nub of the issue: chronic food insecurity is merely part of a broader set of inequities that Black people face. Every year in Canada, up to 25% of new HIV cases are among people who identify as Black, though Black people account for only about 5% of the country’s population. In short, chronic food insecurity, the disproportionate burden HIV, and other inequities signify how Black Canadians are systemically disadvantaged in Canadian society.

Why does this unfortunate situation persist? Why collect data if they do not inform action to change the status quo? Fundamentally, Canadian institutions continue to undervalue how systemic anti-Black racism severely diminishes Black livelihoods and aspirations. Institutions reproduce anti-Black racism through their silence, and through actively resisting our evidence about its effects. Public institutions reproduce their white supremacist foundation by burying the data about Black communities in the weeds of various reports, casting doubt about the data through technical contrivances, or offering only superficial commentary or interpretation of the problem. Instead of engaging Black stakeholders to amplify Black people’s concerns and leadership, experts and their institutions provide cover for governments to evade their responsibility to the Black citizenry. 

Across Canada, government and government-funded institutions develop and support policies that are indifferent to anti-Black racism and the circumstances of Black communities. Not surprisingly, their solutions end up reproducing or reinforcing the inequities that already characterize Black people’s health and wellbeing. At the end of the day, Black people remain disproportionately disadvantaged, despite a plethora of plans and strategies that are meant to strengthen Canadian wellbeing. 

As far as food insecurity is concerned, Black stakeholders demand a serious conversation with our elected representatives and high-level decision-makers from our public institutions about the causes and solutions. 

We recommend that federal, provincial and municipal decision-makers look at Toronto’s Black Food Sovereignty Plan that was adopted by Toronto City Council in 2021. This is the first such plan for any major city in North America. The Plan resulted from community advocacy about food insecurity among Black communities in Toronto, especially our focus on food sovereignty between 2019 and 2021, and the strategic intervention of the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit. 

The Plan includes a mix of targeted actions to support Black people’s stewardship of a sustainable food system to meet the needs of Toronto’s diverse Black communities (e.g., improved access to the infrastructure for producing food). We know that the Plan is not perfect. One of its main challenges is its weak accountability framework. Nonetheless, it represents an important acknowledgement and beginning. That’s why we will advocate for a renewed Plan beyond its current 5-year lifespan. 

Regrettably, Black communities continue to endure the deep deprivations associated with systemic anti-Black racism. Black stakeholders are very aware of what it will take to eliminate the inequities that undermine our wellbeing and aspirations. Yet, we continually run up against institutions and experts that forestall our legitimate claims. Unfortunately, systemic inequality is not only injurious to Black communities, but is inefficient and costly for the society as a whole.

Afri-Can FoodBasket (AFB) is a Toronto-based non-profit organization committed to reducing hunger, enhancing cultural food access, and promoting health and wellness through food and nutrition initiatives within African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) communities in the GTA.

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