The following article is written by Michael Blair, General Secretary, General Council, of The United Church of Canada. He is also a member of the Foodgrains Bank board of directors. The article originally appeared on The United Church of Canada website.
Food insecurity is on the rise again in recent years after years of prolonged decline.
Food insecurity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. It creates suffering and poor health but can also slow progress in important areas of development, like education and employment. According to a 2020 UN report, 690 million people do not have sufficient food to lead a healthy life.
Compounding the precarious situation is the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the World Food Programme estimated would push up to 136 million people into acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. Spreading to every part of the globe, the virus has negatively impacted global economies and health care systems, and exposed the inequalities among people, communities, and countries. As the economy dramatically slows due to lockdowns and movement restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many people can longer earn an income to support themselves and their families. The hardest hit are low-wage earners and those in the informal sectors such as domestic helpers, street vendors, drivers, and cleaners. Smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women, have also been hit hard as they cannot grow food, access markets to sell their produce and livestock, and purchase tools and seeds. Small-scale farmers are vitally important to feeding people globally.
Working toward a just, equitable, and sustainable food system is why The United Church of Canada is a committed member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. It’s been my privilege to represent The United Church of Canada on the Board of the Foodgrains Bank for four years as we work to be “a Christian response to hunger.” The Foodgrains Bank is one of the ways the church lives out its understanding of the integral connection to the earth and to each other and its call to participate in God’s work of healing and mending creation, as well as its commitment to work in partnership.
The Foodgrains Bank and its 15 member agencies, partners, and supporters are an example of a community working together to eradicate global hunger. Farmers from across Canada donate a portion from the sale of their crops in support of and in solidarity with other smallholder farmers in places like Kenya and Zimbabwe. United Church congregations, growing projects, and individual supporters donate funds because they believe access to food is a human right. Implementing partners want to see the communities where they live and work healthy and thriving, while members provide expertise and financial resources to partners to access Foodgrains Bank programming.
We have been instrumental in encouraging the use of conservation agriculture as a means of promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Goal 2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, coupled with the biblical story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 24, continues to serve as a prophetic call to the church in its attention to the cries of the hungry and the means of concretely responding to the challenges of food security and agriculture.
As we enter the final decade to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, time is running short. We have the means and the people-power to feed the world, but it cannot be at the expense of the earth and all of God’s creatures. In order to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030, we need to come together as community to address the challenge of food insecurity.
―Michael Blair is General Secretary, General Council, of The United Church of Canada