The combination of widespread hunger and rampant overeating has left us in the midst of a global health disaster, according to a United Nations representative on the right to food.
Nearly one-third of all people on Earth are unhealthy either from want of food, want of healthy food, or obesity, according U.N. special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter, who is currently documenting Canada's food system.
One of the problems plaguing the approximately two million Canadians without enough to eat stems from what Anna Paskal of Food Secure Canada called "food deserts."
"Many low-income people live in areas which are not well served by large grocery stores or markets," Paskal said, discussing the high-fat, high-salt diets associated with corner store grocery shopping.
"What we would like to see. . . is the development of a national food policy," Paskal said.
"We'd finally break down the silos between health, and agriculture, environment, fisheries, international trade, indigenous affairs, and take a look, holistically, at what kind of a food system we want for Canada."
The number of shoppers learning about the journey their food takes before it gets to their plate is encouraging, according to Paskal.
"In a lot of places people are starting to talk about their farmer like they talk about their doctor," she said.
The right to food means having ample healthy food within reasonable geographic proximity and within economic reach, according to De Schutter.
Following a stop in Quebec, De Schutter found that one-third of Montreal residents live below the poverty line, and an average of 5.6 farms are being lost in the province each week.
The special rapporteur recommended taxing unhealthy foods and supporting local food production as two methods of countering what he called the "supermarketization" of traditional eating habits.
"The current government has not made any clear statements on the right to food," Paskal said. "I think we'll have a much better sense of their intentions once the report is released."