• Tasnim Abdi

Global Food Security at McGill

Around the world, global food security is becoming an important issue, affecting the lives of millions of people. In 2011, the McGill Institute of Global Food Security was established with the support of many faculty members and the broader McGill community. It has turned into a driving force in improving the resources available for professionals in different fields. This article will examine the many ways in which McGill is working towards global food security, with a particular emphasis on the motivation of the students, especially on the Macdonald Campus.

Food security has been recognized by many food-related international organizations. According to the United Nations, specifically the Food and Agricultural Organization, food security is “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” There are many layers to determining whether someone is considered food secure.

While malnutrition used to be the main criteria for food security, now overnutrition is included in its definition, because a significant number of people are consuming foods that are highly processed and lack nutrients. These people end up becoming obese and start to develop cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Most of time, this is the case because these foods are cheaper than the fruits and vegetables in the markets and individuals cannot afford to purchase them. As a result, low-income individuals are the most at risk for food insecurity. Thus, people in developed and developing countries face many barriers in becoming food-secure, and can easily lose access to safe and nutritious foods.

Researchers have found that there are not many options when it comes to improving food security in developing countries. In contrast, people in developed countries have access to many programs intended to provide information on how they can improve their nutrition status. They have limited knowledge about food and tend to not be concerned about with their diets. They can feel stressed or emotionally unstable when it comes to asking for assistance. In Canada, food banks are increasingly requesting healthier foods. In addition, the concept of community gardens has been attracting huge attention because it allows people to see where their food comes from and how they can change the quality of their meals at a lower cost. Many presentations have been done to give information on how to preserve foods and techniques to pick the most produce for the least amount of money (i.e. buying certain foods when they are in season).

More universities, such as McGill, are becoming open to looking into global food security. Recently, McGill opened the McGill Institute of Global Food Security, which is under the supervision of Dr. Hugo Melgar-Quinonez. He has worked with leaders and organizations on many different levels, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization. His work has led him to numerous countries where food security is a large problem. By developing methods to assess and evaluate food security policies, he has given them what is necessary in order to combat the issue.

At McGill, there has been more funding of projects addressing global food security. The Macdonald Campus is a good example of how they are increasing their efforts in finding solutions. Furthermore, McGill has opened a major in global food security, where students learn about the governmental and non-profit agencies dealing with food security and compare the impact of some of the policies and initiatives implanted in developing countries. These students can take their knowledge and travel to other countries, where they develop programs with the help of organizations based there. Many professors on the Macdonald Campus have performed research in developing countries in order to learn more about the factors preventing people from getting healthy food at an affordable price. Some of the research has focused on the health effects on individuals, especially those who are vulnerable, such as infants and the elderly. Also, there is a research group made up of students working on projects about global food security.

On the Macdonald Campus, there is also the McGill Global Food Security Club. It is a student-run organization that runs activities to raise awareness on global food security through events. Several people have joined this club, reflecting the level of interest towards this cause.

Global food security affects many aspects of life because people rely on having healthy and affordable food in order to preform daily tasks. Initiatives focusing on food security are common in both developed and developing countries for different reasons. McGill is helping by working with governmental agencies and non-profit organizations. It is important that the urgency of global food security is understood by people, so more can be done to achieve it.

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