University of Regina research team looks at rural Sask. to address food insecurity

A University of Regina research team is looking at the local level to address food security concerns seen across the country.

Ebube Ogie, a master’s researcher in the sociology and social studies department at the U of R, said people are concerned about food affordability, noting inflation has been on the rise.

She pointed to rural areas like Muskeg Lake and Val Marie in Saskatchewan as models to help deal with food shortages.

Ogie said Muskeg Lake residents are becoming more self-sufficient through their local food forest, a self-sustaining, nature-inspired agricultural system that provides fruits, vegetables and other edibles, as well as medicines and cultural resources. Val Marie residents can access fresh foods from a nearby Hutterite Colony, a self-sustaining colony that produces its own food, and also rely on their personal gardens.

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She said through their study that food accessibility was also a concern in some rural communities.

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Ogie said people are getting so busy with their lives that doing things like gardening to grow your own food can fall by the wayside.

She said there should be more focus on producing our own food, and more support for things like farmers markets, as those are ways we can help avoid food shortages in the future.

“There’s a shift into relying more on processed food,” Ogie said.

One of Ogie’s research partners, Amber Fletcher, the director of the Community Engagement and Research Centre at the U of R, pointed to cultural practices as a potential answer.

“We have this dominant industrial way of producing food in Canada and this project is shedding light on the value that local cultural practices, local knowledge and living heritage can have when it comes to presenting an alternative,” Fletcher said.

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“It’s time to challenge the system and put more focus on historically engrained practices that have been passed down from generation to generation, so people learn how to grow food, process food and consume food in ways that are more responsive to what is and can be grown here.”

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Ogie said residents in Muskeg Lake are helping teach students about growing food, which in turn results in some of that produce going back to the school.

“The current principles guiding our food system are neoliberal in nature – we’re feeding the world, but we’re harming our land and despite all of the food in the system, Canadians still don’t have food security, they still hunger,” Ogie said.

“Our findings show that our local food systems can really do a lot of good for us as a nation. We want to see local food production blossom here by relying on food sovereignty principles and living heritage.”

This is one of the topics Ogie is speaking on at Congress 2023, a humanities and social sciences conference taking place in Toronto.

“It’s time to stop looking at food as something to maximize profits, and start seeing it as something to consume,” she said.

“Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket and we want to see that manifested in how we live, how we produce food and how we consume food. Our goal is to end food insecurity and promote food security for everyone.”

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