As a naturopathic doctor in training, public health is an aspect of health care that I feel is often overlooked. While naturopathic medicine prides itself on treating the individual, and providing highly individualized therapy for each patient, I think it is still very necessary that we take the time to realize the bigger process of health at play as well. Gaining a larger breadth of knowledge about the patient (i.e. their socioeconomic status, built environment, social environment etc.) is vastly important to treating them as an individual as well, and it is some of these broader public health issues that I would like touch on in todays post.
As some of you may know, I am incredibly passionate about urban agriculture initiatives. I believe that urban farming, community gardens, and community supported agriculture efforts are the ideal answer to many of the social, environmental, and health issues that our urban populations face in the modern day. While the urban agriculture initiatives that are currently in place are making great strides towards improving the health and wellness of their communities, I think it is time that we look at such initiatives in a different way; not just as public health initiatives, but as a potential driving force in the fight for social change. Urban agriculture has the potential to address many socially derived determinants of health, as well as socially propagated barriers to wellness, but often times this potential is not being achieved for a variety of reasons. It is this concept, of viewing urban agriculture as a vehicle for social change, as well as the issues that come with this, that I am going to further discuss with you.
While it is a wonderful thing, that urban agriculture programs are continuing to rise in popularity, many of said initiatives are not being used to the best of their ability to increase food sovereignty and food security in the populations that need it most (i.e. low socioeconomic populations, minority populations, etc.). Currently, many of the better-known urban agriculture initiatives in Canadian communities are focused solely on green and sustainable methods of food production, which do not actually get to the root of what is causing a lack of food sovereignty. In addition, many of these programs are not made as accessible as they could be to low socioeconomic status individuals, as there is often a certain stigmatization that occurs with their use. Ultimately, the current situation surrounding how urban agriculture is being used to increase food sovereignty in low access areas (i.e. food deserts) is fraught with complex issues. The programs being put in place are making strides towards food sovereignty, but many of them are missing out on the key issues that give people back control over their own food systems. Many urban agriculture initiatives are not being used to the best of their ability to increase food sovereignty and achieve social change. The main barriers that these urban agriculture initiatives face in actually achieving (or at least acting as a vehicle for social change) are in my opinion three fold: White/wealth washing of the initiatives, positions of power, and non-addressing of core issues.