Nick Saul is the recipient of the prestigious Jane Jacobs Prize as well as the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. He speaks regularly on issues of food justice and the innovative Community Food Centre model of food access, health and community building. Saul will be presenting his talk at this year’s TEDxToronto 2016 on October 27 at Koerner Hall, Telus Centre for Performance and Learning.

SDTC: Briefly describe the Community Food Centre model. Why is it effective?

NS: The Community Food Centres we’re building across the country are dignified spaces in low-income communities where people come together to grow, cook, eat well and advocate for what needs to change for their lives to be better. It works because it prioritizes listening and responding to people’s needs and hopes and draws on their individual and collective strengths to help them get to where they need to go.

What needs to change, in your opinion, to eliminate food insecurity in Canada?

Let’s start by being very clear that food insecurity is rooted in poverty, not a lack of food. With four million of our fellow citizens struggling to put food on the table, we can’t afford to sit idle. To confront this crisis we need to push for public policies that put health, connection and equality first. We need a growing number of people to mobilize around good jobs with fair wages and benefits, more affordable childcare and housing and improved income supports that enable people to live with dignity and health when they can’t be full participants in the economy. The resources are there, we just need to share them more equally.

Daunting? Absolutely, but change is possible. The key is to get involved. In our Community Food Centres the important conversations about what needs to shift and how we’re going to get there always start over a delicious plate of food. Try it.

What has been the most important thing you’ve learned throughout your work in this field?

Listen to the people who are most affected by the issues you’re trying to solve – the answers are there – and it’s critical to create places (Community Food Centres in our case) that not only support social connection but also reflect the future we desperately need to see: healthy, nurturing and equitable.

What can we look forward to in your TED talk?

I’ll speak about how food in itself can’t solve hunger, yet it’s a powerful force for building belonging, community and collective action, key ingredients to creating a society where we all have a chance to thrive.