On January 9th 2012, over 50 community members met at Metro Hall to discuss the relationship between Food Security and Mental Health.
Our panel speakers included Wei Su, a holistic nutritionist; Laura Collins, a MES Researcher; and Ran Goel, from Fresh City Farms. Wei enlightened us on the impacts of food on our brain and bodies. There is a clear link between food and nutritional intake to our minds. Laura shared her research on how food insecurity negatively affects the mental health of the most vulnerable populations. Ran shared his experiences in seeing how food production serves as a sort of treatment for communities.
The community group broke off into a brainstorming session; the following reflects the discussions ensued:
- Short Term Policy goals:
The group felt the use of short term policy contributed to the development of radical changes, allowing for pilot projects, the use of small budgets. In the end, it would be a win-win situation. For example, programs such as the Toronto Food Strategy, Mobile Food Trucks and Carts, and the CAMH Sunshine garden, all began as pilot projects. In various institutions, the short term policy goals have also served to create longer lasting opportunities.
- Long Term Policy goals:
Institutional systems can help the establishment of long term food security. Such long term policy goals can include having province wide breakfast programs at elementary schools; improving food literacy and knowledge; addressing poverty through standardized income or changing the measurement of poverty; and improving access (transportation, mobile food). In order to achieve these long term policy goals, we can look into: replacing the current taxation to a progressive tax system; subsidizing local farmers; and implementing a carbon tax.
- Short Term Civic Engagement:
These serve as coping methods, although short lived, have a big impact on structural change. Such grassroots initiatives are served to meet local needs, for example: Food not Bombs, Occupy movement, and Mass Seeding. The use of Community gardens run by immigrants connected by mental health disorders, serve to provide social support and an opportunity to learn about food about food and culture. Education, outreach and media outlets are also used to raise awareness.
- Long Term Civic Engagement:
Serve as structural change, and allow individuals to become integrated into the system. These long term civic engagement goals can be achieved through use of short term civic engagement, raising awareness and consciousness, rethinking spaces and use of community resources.