In a world where small gains have been made in the fight against hunger, sadly almost a third of the population is still grappling with food insecurity. This is on top of worsening effects of climate change, global conflicts, record-high inflation, and ongoing pandemic recovery.
Fortunately, Best.Gift.Ever gifts are helping families work towards both short and long-term food security.
Here are six ways that the Best.Gift.Ever is championing community food security, one gift at a time.
School meals fight food insecurity
School meal programs are invaluable when it comes to keeping children in school. Without feeding programs, children have to travel home for meals which puts them at risk of missing class, as many students live far from school. As well, providing lunch and snacks for their children exacerbates already limited family income. This often puts parents in tough positions where they need to choose between meals and other basic needs.
Best.Gift.Ever gifts of school meals help alleviate the financial pressure parents face and provides children with daily nutritious meals. These meals help keep them full and at school so they can learn to their full potential.
Irene in Uganda is one of thousands of children who have benefitted through CFTC-supported school meal programs. Her academic performance has greatly improved, and she’s looking forward to continuing her studies in the hopes of becoming a nurse one day.
Farms fight against food insecurity
Farming initiatives include livestock farms (goats, bees and chickens) and agriculture like small-scale and climate-smart farming. These provide community members, often women, with economic opportunities to advance their livelihoods in order to generate their own earning power and provide more for their children.
With livestock rearing and beekeeping, farmers often sell their bred animals or animal products, like eggs or honey, in local markets. This allows women the ability to become entrepreneurs in the field and open their own stalls or shops. As well, livestock farming enriches families’ diets by providing them with animal products like milk and eggs, giving them much-needed (and delicious) protein.
Tsigehana in Ethiopia had a low income and lack of opportunities which meant that she and her daughter had to rely on family members for support. After joining a local Village and Savings Loan Association that embarked on a poultry business, everything changed.
She has now tripled her previous income, and her growing business is providing more than enough for her children. She told us, "I started with 22 egg-laying hens and earn about 220 birr per day from selling eggs. Much better than the income that I used to get from daily labour work."
Gardens fight against food insecurity
Fresh produce is often difficult to access for many communities. Climate factors like drought or heavy rains affect crops, and in rural areas, nutritious food is rather costly. School and vegetable gardens are therefore crucial to providing children and families with a sustainable source of fresh and healthy food to eat both at school and home.
Wendy lives in a peri-urban area in Bolivia where poverty levels are high and fresh produce can be quite expensive. Wendy's school received supplies to build a garden, and the children are now harvesting their crops for their school lunches, giving them consistent access to healthy food.
Wendy’s family also received materials to create their own garden, which allows Wendy to enjoy fresh, delicious vegetables right at home. Wendy loves picking her homegrown produce for her mother to make her favourite food - a big hearty salad.
Girls' education fights against food insecurity
Unfortunately, due to ongoing stigma, it is believed girls do not need to receive a quality education and are often kept at home or sent away to neighbouring cities for domestic work. This puts girls and young women at risk of trafficking, assault, child marriage, and poverty. That's why investing in girls' education is imperative, and important in achieving food security.
When girls stay in school and later enter the workforce, they can contribute financially to their families, enabling them to afford more nutritious food and improve their overall quality of life. Additionally, women play a significant role in agricultural production. When girls receive an education, they can contribute more effectively to agricultural activities, employing modern techniques and sustainable practices to enhance crop yields and food production. This, in turn, contributes to increased food security in their communities.
Mary is part of her school’s girls empowerment and rights club. She and her fellow classmates learn about the barriers to girls’ education like stigma around menstruation, and also develop skills to advocate for their rights and build self-esteem.
Entrepreneurship and livelihoods fight against food insecurity
Supporting women's livelihoods helps women gain economic empowerment and unleash their capacity to make lasting contributions to their families and communities, which is critical to creating food-secure communities.
Village Savings and Loans Associations (VLSA) give women the gift of economic empowerment. VSLAs provide women with credit, savings accounts, business support, and access to land and farming inputs like seeds to help grow their agriculture businesses in areas where women are often denied access to these services.
Other entrepreneurial efforts like beading, sewing, plumbing, gastronomy, and pastry making are just a fraction of the business ventures community members, mostly women, can be trained in through CFTC-supported programming.
Vida and her husband, Robert are vegetable farmers in Ghana with two young daughters. Vida joined a local VSLA and a business incubation program where she is learning how to save for their children’s education and trade the vegetables they grow. Meanwhile, Robert joined a Farmer Based Group where he attended training on agricultural best practices.
After the training, Robert allocated some farming land to Vida where she now grows her own vegetables and is responsible for the proceeds. She has also taken the lead on selling their vegetables and investing in additional capital. These endeavours have vastly improved their households' food security.
Indigenous food sovereignty fights against food insecurity
In Canada, many Indigenous communities are facing record-high inflation and food insecurity. Food prices in Canada have risen 11.4%. But in many Indigenous communities, food prices were already 2.5 times higher than the national average.
As a result, many Indigenous households have no choice but to rely on cheaper, less nutritious options to feed their families.
That’s why Canada Best.Gift.Ever gifts are vital in providing Indigenous families with opportunities to have not only food security, but food sovereignty through programs like land-based education, food forests, and community gardens.
Greenhouses are a wonderful initiative to champion both short and long-term food security and ensure that communities have healthy and fresh produce all year long. Greenhouses help to start growing seedlings for gardens to get food earlier in the growing season. With Canada’s short growing season, especially in northern regions, greenhouses will help grow more food to feed more people all year-round.
In Natoageneg (Eel Ground First Nation) in New Brunswick, a new Best.Gift.Ever greenhouse was installed to provide the local school with opportunities for students to get involved in the growing process, and in turn provide nutritious food for school meals.
“There’s so many perks, really. Even just getting in the soil and getting away from the fast-food culture,” Terri-Anne, the principal of the local school, said. “We want children to learn skills to grow their own food, gain confidence, and build the desire for kids to get back to their land,” she added, alluding to the knowledge-sharing between generations that reconnects children and youth to traditional food practices.
Best.Gift.Ever gifts fight against food insecurity
In our podcast First Comes Food, we go on a journey through Indigenous food forests in Saskatchewan, farming communities in African countries and early childhood community programs in Bolivia to meet the people who are growing food security for everyone. Their stories may surprise you.
Listen to First Comes Food, now streaming on our website and wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.