Morgan Clark – Emergency Programs Officer
World Food Day (WFD) 2021 is on October 16! World Food Day has been celebrated annually since 1981 to commemorate the founding of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and increase awareness of world hunger and poverty.
WFD is celebrated each year to inspire solutions for world change in the food and agriculture sector and to raise awareness of global food insecurity. WFD is especially important to GlobalMedic as a humanitarian organization that operates food-related programs in Canada and around the world.
About World Food Day 2021
World Food Day is one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar, collectively observed across 150 countries, including Canada. Hundreds of events, outreach activities, and educational materials promote worldwide awareness and action for those experiencing hunger and food insecurity. World Food Day celebrations also highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all. It’s a day when Governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and the general public can come together in an effort to eradicate world hunger.
Who is the UN FAO?
The UN FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, founded in 1945, that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security. The UN FAO’s Latin motto, fiat panis, translates to “let there be bread”. Their goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
Why care about food systems?
Every time you eat, you participate in global agri-food systems. From the food you choose at the store and the way food is produced, prepared, cooked, and stored, makes us all an integral and active part of how the system works.
The world’s agri-food systems currently employ 1 billion people worldwide, which is more than any other economic sector. Moreover, food production, consumption, and, sadly, waste, exacts a heavy toll on our planet. Over 30% of the world’s food is either lost due to inadequate harvesting, handling, storage, and transit or wasted at the consumer level. Such inefficiency is costing trillions of dollars, but, most importantly, today’s agri-food systems are exposing profound inequalities and injustices in our global society. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, making it even harder for farmers to sell their harvests, while rising poverty is pushing an increased number of city residents to use food banks, and millions of people require emergency food aid.
According to the UN FAO, more than 3 billion people (almost 40% of the world’s population) cannot afford a healthy diet, while obesity continues to increase worldwide.
What GlobalMedic is doing to combat food insecurity?
In keeping with our mandate to deliver the right aid to the right people at the right time, our approach to delivering food aid is both innovative and adaptable. We operate both domestic and international food programs, ensuring that the food we deliver is culturally appropriate and best fits the needs of our beneficiaries.
The goal of our international Emergency Food Program is simple – we want to do emergency food better. Accessing adequate and healthy food sources can be extremely difficult for families in conflict and disaster zones around the world, so to address these needs of nutritional support, GlobalMedic distributes Emergency Food Kits. The first iteration of these food kits provided families with an easy-to-make, ready-to-cook meal that is calorically dense and nutritious. Not only are these meals tasty and culturally appropriate, but they are also easy to prepare and have long shelf lives, so families on the move don’t have to worry about spoilage. We worked with local partners to provide these types of food kits to families in Syria, Indonesia, and Ukraine.
As we developed and improved our Emergency Food Program, looking for ways to make it more cost-effective and increasingly impactful, the Emergency Food Kits transitioned into a ‘pantry style’ food program. These kits contain a pantry of multiple culturally appropriate staple ingredients, such as rice, beans, lentils, and grits, to be assembled at the discretion of the beneficiary. This pantry solution provides families with more autonomy in their food preparation and allows us to provide more aid at a similar price point.
Over the past few years, GlobalMedic has supported families in Antigua & Barbuda, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and the Bahamas through our Emergency Food Program. To learn more about our international food programs, click here.
McAntony’s Menu, a part of The Grassroots Revolution, is the domestic version of our food program. It was designed to complement and support the heavily utilized local food bank systems that serve the 1 in 8 families in Canada who are food insecure. This program is a unique way to think about and approach food donation. To keep our costs low and make the biggest impact possible, we leverage our existing supply chains to buy bulk bags of pantry staples like rice, green peas, red lentils, and chickpeas and then mobilize our dedicated volunteers to repack the food into 500g bags. These family-sized portions are then boxed up and delivered to food banks and other support programs across the country, for a third to a quarter of the retail price. As with our international beneficiaries, we also prioritize maintaining the dignity of our domestic beneficiaries through this program, and by removing our logo and name from the packaging, these products do not look like “charity food”.
Since its launch in 2020, we have delivered more than 1,432,000 lbs of food through our McAntony’s Menu program. To learn more about the program, click here.
Food Insecurity and COVID-19
Our extensive experience with implementing emergency food programs domestically and internationally allowed GlobalMedic to quickly expand our operations at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past 18 months, we have handed out McAntony’s Menu pantry staples at various vaccination clinics, including The Canadian Centre for Refugee & Immigrant Health Care (CCRIHC), and packed over 13,000 food hampers for First Nations communities. In addition to our regular McAntony’s Menu program, we partnered with local food banks to deliver additional programs in response to the growing food insecurity fuelled by the pandemic. With the support of our dedicated volunteers, GlobalMedic has been assembling food hampers for North York Harvest and Feed Ontario and sorting food donation bins for Mississauga Food Bank. We have also partnered with Hand Up Toronto to run our Feed the Six Campaign, which provides vulnerable families in the GTA with food hampers. These hampers are also packed by GlobalMedic’s amazing volunteers and then distributed via contactless delivery by Hand Up Toronto volunteer drivers. Since the start of Feed the Six in the spring of 2020, GlobalMedic has packed and distributed over 23,000 of these food hampers around the GTA.
GlobalMedic’s international and domestic food programming is possible thanks to the ongoing support of our devoted volunteers and generous donors. In celebration of #WorldFoodDay2021, we invite you to join us in the fight against hunger! Make a donation to our Emergency Relief Fund here or learn more about opportunities to volunteer with us here.