In Saskatoon, food insecurity is at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic

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COVID-19 brings food insecurity to light in Saskatoon
WATCH: COVID-19 has brought food insecurity to the forefront as people look for easier means to get their groceries such as growing their own food – Jun 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way people go about everyday life.

People may have noticed empty store shelves and people loading up on select items, buying in bulk.

Saskatchewan Health Authority and Saskatoon Inter-Agency Response to COVID-19 member Chelsea Belt says there seems to be less of that happening now.

“I think we didn’t see the surges like we did in the beginning (of the pandemic) when people had money to go to the grocery store,” Belt said.

“That first surge of fear (shopping) and buying everything on the shelves.”

Rachel Engler-Stinger, an associate professor with the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, says in her community of Caswell Hill, unfortunate timing presented more challenges for many residents.

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“Our grocery store closed for renovations right before the pandemic hit,” said the professor of community health and epidemiology.

“There were a lot of people, a lot of chatter — we have a very active Facebook group in Caswell Hill. A lot of people asking for help with getting groceries.”

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Coronavirus: New app putting stock in new way to shop for groceries

She says limitations such as transportation, income and few fresh markets have been exemplified during the pandemic. Additional, suggestions from the health authorities to limit trips to the store also have played a role.

She says 12.7 per cent of households in the Bridge City are food insecure based on a survey completed by the Canadian Health Community. However, that does not include Indigenous people or veterans. She adds that number could be as high as 37 per cent on reserves in the province.

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Saskatoon resident Jasmine Doran says she has been helping out elderly neighbours with getting groceries since the pandemic began.

“There have been some neighbours we have been shopping for,” Doran said, “making sure that they are taken care of so they are not at risk of exposure (to COVID-19) at the grocery store.”

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During a webinar with food experts last week, they discussed a number of topics related to food insecurity and the pandemic, addressing solutions like growing more food locally and ways to allow for organic, healthy foods to be easily available for everyone.

Executive director at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge John Lafond says the organization is getting kids and youth involved in being a part of community growing gardens.

He says they have implemented an after-school program for kids to tend to food gardens.

“How do we engage the youth to actively take part in those next steps and actively engage them in planning and  ask what they would like to see and how as individuals would … fit into that system.”

He says his goal is to spread that concept to other Indigenous reserves around Saskatoon.

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READ MORE: Gardening grows in northwest Saskatchewan during COVID-19 lockdown

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Growing food in the garden is something Doran has been doing as an alternative means of having stock of some of her family’s favourite fruits and vegetables.

“It’s been interesting because you don’t realize how much of something you use until there is only a fine amount in your garden,” said Doran.

“So, definitely trying to plant stuff that we know we use a lot of.”

Jean Goerzen, interim executive director of CHEP Good Food, Inc., says have been doing a school family lunch box for 15 community schools were they provided nutritional lunches to 500 families.

“There is a limit to the ability to acquire nutritional or quality foods.”

Engler-Stinger suggested to the other members of the webinar about bringing their ideas to local government officials on the issue of food self-sufficiency as we head into the fourth month of the pandemic.

The pandemic has brought chatter on important issues such as solutions to poverty.

“I think there is more appetite and more movement on actually solving some of these problems,” said Belt.

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Engler-Stinger adds there are cities in Canada implementing their solutions.

“(In) Victoria and Montreal, they have shifted from growing flowers in their city greenhouses. They started growing seedlings to give for free out to people to grow their own food.”







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