June 9, 2022

Food: Security and Insecurity with Dr. Natalie Riediger

Food: Security and Insecurity with Dr. Natalie Riediger

From working in a four generations family owned and operated grocery store in the inner city of Winnipeg to receiving 2020 Terry G. Falconer memorial Rh Institute Foundation Emerging Research Award, Dr. Natalie Riediger has been either working in or researching about food security. Natalie walks us through the Four Pillars that describe food security: availability, access, utilization, and stability. In her capacity as assistant professor of food and human nutritional sciences in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Services, Natalie is driving discovery in understanding how to effectively address nutrition-related health inequities among oppressed populations. Natalie speaks to the importance of advocating for policy as World Food Safety Day approaches on June 7, 2022.

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From working in a four generations family owned and operated grocery store in the inner city of Winnipeg to receiving 2020 Terry G. Falconer memorial Rh Institute Foundation Emerging Research Award, Dr. Natalie Riediger has been either working in or researching about food security. Natalie walks us through the Four Pillars that describe food security: availability, access, utilization, and stability. In her capacity as assistant professor of food and human nutritional sciences in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Services, Natalie is driving discovery in understanding how to effectively address nutrition-related health inequities among oppressed populations. Natalie speaks to the importance of advocating for policy as World Food Safety Day approaches on June 7, 2022.

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.


This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights.

Here's your host Stuart, Murray Tuesday, June seven is World Food Safety Day.

Well we can talk about food safety which is the need for people to have food that is free of contamination.

That's the definition according to the World Food Security Council and Food Security is the need for people to have access to food.

We're gonna talk a little bit about both on today's podcast.

My guest is dr Natalie, she's an assistant professor of food and human nutritional sciences and the faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and she is driving, discovering and understanding how to effectively address nutrition related health inequities amongst oppressed populations as one area of her work.

It's interesting that and I'm gonna ask her about this because I was interested to find out that Natalie was the recipient of the 2020 Terry G.

Falconer Memorial Rh Institute Foundation Emerging Research Award.

That sounds like a handful.

We're gonna find all about it.

Natalie Rejigger, welcome to humans on rights, Thank you Stuart for having me Now.

We talked at the top about maybe a land acknowledgement.

Please feel free if that's something you would like to start the podcast on.

Yes, well you acknowledged, I think that you're on Treaty one territory as well as the homeland of the Maiti nation and I am as well in the basement of my home.

So I'm very grateful to live here in these lands and of course eat the food that is produced from these lands.

Oh yeah.

And I'm looking forward to chatting today.

Great thank you so much Natalie.

So before we get into, you know the, all of the great work you're doing clearly at the University of Manitoba.

Let's start from the beginning.

You were born in Winnipeg.

I was born in Winnipeg at the Women's Hospital.

And tell me a little bit about your early education and where you went to school and what ultimately got you interested in in becoming the PhD and doing the studies you're doing.

But what what what did you do?

And where did you go to high school?

So I grew up in north called Onen.

I went to Westgate Mennonite Collegiate from grade seven to grade 12.

And my family had a grocery store in Winnipeg's inner city at the corner of Isabel and ross across from the freight house community center.

And that's where I spent a lot of my time growing up.

So I'd go there even as a child, I say weekly and then started working there regularly as soon as I was old enough to work there and I worked there regularly throughout high school and part of my undergraduate education until I got into research and then kind of work there casually all the way through to my PhD when it closed in 2012, So your folks decided to close it in 2012.

Yeah, well after 75 years, I would say the business wasn't really viable anymore.

It's it's a very tough business.

I'd say to sell food in a community that's food insecure.

And part of it was just, it was it was time for generations of us worked there and you know that the landscape for the grocery business had changed a lot during that time.

But that's like being an institution in that community.


I mean for generations it's, you know, people would know, you know, your grandparents, your parents, I mean who you are, I mean you, you know, in that community, you see people coming through the, through the doors and you get to know their family and their kids and what they're doing.

So it's very much a community.

I I would think, Oh yeah, definitely.

I'd say a lot of my, you know, a lot of my work now is still community based and and and a lot of that was inspired through that work because our business survived for a long time because of those relationships with community organizations, the schools we delivered to a lot of the school lunch and breakfast programs in the area and certainly, you know, I didn't work there regularly near to the end as much as my, you know, my dad and my uncle who had water relationships in the community and you know, I think still attend funerals of people they met through that work and and and I still see people you know that I remember from working there and I still have friends who I keep in contact with and so yeah it was it was a very big part of our lives when you think back on that Natalie growing up with a family business particularly you know running a grocery store in a community and building those relationships share just a couple of your sort of fondest memories of what you think back of those times that maybe has had an impact to help you motivate you to what you're currently doing today.

I say in terms of fondest memories it's obviously the relationships and not that many people I don't think get the chance to work with their family.

So that's something that I really, you know look back positively like I got to work with my grandfather, my brothers, and my cousins and and and so that was positive and and also the relationships in the community, like we were very close with a lot of customers.

I knew most of the people who came in there especially when I was working regularly, certain days just like you know still today, most people have their schedule of how they go grocery shopping.

So I know knew the people who came in Fridays and Saturdays and when I was working social assistance checks were still checks not deposited in accounts.

So you get to know people's names through that way too because they would come in and use their checks to purchase groceries so you know their name and and their address because we did deliveries so so we go you know into their homes and and a big part of my job was also taking deliveries orders.

So I talked to a lot of people on the phone.

This was before any I think any other grocery stores did delivery and so you know that was also an important service that I think we provided and you know for some people just talking to somebody on the phone, giving your grocery order is an important part of their day.

So I mean there's lots I could go on for forever about a lot of the positive memories and but I mean there's also struggle and so I'd say that's kind of also what has motivated me like you see a lot of problems and you experience a lot of problems in the system, the food system and the social assistance system, you know that impacts families ability to access food and and you know we spent a lot of our effort trying to respond to those and and you can only do so much so Natalie you know, I I agree.

I mean I think there's you know things that you learn the goods and the bads and the challenges that you see.

The one thing I just wanna just before we leave the grocery business, I just want to, you know, tell you that, you know growing up as a kid, I was a boy scout or a cub whatever you want and we used to have National Shoeshine Day where you would have your Macintosh apples and you would, you know basically have an apple and you would try and shoes and you know, that's how you would sort of generate a little bit of revenue.

My point being is that when I go in today to buy apples, like they have, I don't know, 15 different kinds of apples.

I mean I always sort of thought macintosh was kind of the apple, but that is really quite a, you know, I mean obviously that's growth, there's organic apples and there's different kinds Pink ladies, uh Fiji there's so many different apples, you know, you wouldn't have seen any of that in your day.

I mean things were a little bit more maybe focused, I would think maybe I'm dating myself, I remember a lot of those apples, yeah, granny smith, Pink lady gala.

But yeah, even it's funny, I was just telling somebody the other day, I don't remember we never sold avocado, you know, we had a pretty broad produce election, but I don't recall ever having avocado.

So that's something that's kind of new and definitely there's a lot more fruits and vegetables and different types of, I'd say Food products today than there was even then.

And of course we have pictures of the store from the 30s and 40s and 50s so I do appreciate how much the, you know, the availability of different foods has changed over time.


And I think, you know to your point though, Natalie is that what you probably witnessed were you know from time to time there were people that would come in that maybe their entire paycheck might go to purchasing their food.

And for some, you know, you you get a chance to understand some of their their backgrounds and some of the struggles they're having as families because you know them you get to know who they are and you know that I think is uh is of course and we don't have to get into this, but that's so so missing in today's food world.

I mean it's you know, massive stores, massive islands, massive shopping carts, but let's talk a little bit about, you know what food security means and how is it that you studied from high school, you went into university, you've got your Bachelor's, then you've got your Masters and now your PhD how did you start to really drill down on what you felt was the important of food security?

Well I'd say my path wasn't I guess totally direct uh my undergraduate and Master's degrees were in nutrition.

So I would say food and nutrition was kind of my first interest and the program at the time and I'd say somewhat still is, you know, it's very biomedical focused in terms of the effects of nutrients and health and uh and not that I'm still interested in that, but I would say there wasn't a large focus on social determinants of health, you know, like the social factors that influence how people eat and access food.

And so I was really interested in kind of that that bigger picture and I did my PhD in in public health, so that kind of gave me more of a bigger picture kind of training and my PhD research was more focused on diabetes epidemiology, which is very much related.

Uh I would say to food food security.

So then I came back once I finished my PhD and eventually got a faculty position, you know you once you're at at the university and faculty position, you have a lot of leeway, I would say to kind of research what interests you.

And so then I was kind of a bit like a kid in a playground and now I can do what I want.

So Natalie let me just um sort of frame this conversation for one second when the word food security comes up, you know, when I was kind of doing my research before we got into this conversation, you know, part of me in my mind was thinking food security.

Well that means that when I go to whatever retail food store that I choose and you know, I name a food store, if they were sponsoring this podcast, none of them are so I'm not gonna name them, but you know you go into a store and food security simply.

Is that well yeah, there's gonna be food on on every isle I go to there's gonna be shelves, they're gonna be all stocked.

I mean that that says food security really that is um you know, not really the definition of when you look at sort of from your perspective from a health perspective and from a human rights perspective, that's not what food security is about.

Am I correct?

So there's lots of different definitions of food security, I'd say the most global broad definition that's used includes four pillars, so that's availability of food and that's kind of how what you just described as, you know, there's there's food in the grocery store and it's there, it's available.

You know, we have it.

The second pillar is access.

So in Canada generally when we talk about food insecurity and when we measured in surveys were focused primarily on economic access, so can people afford it and you know, there's different components of access, but I'd say economic access is the primary one in which we we look at, you know in other context and and certainly an indigenous context, we can consider, you know, do people have the hunting equipment, you know the fishing equipment, the boat etcetera Um in terms of access and then the third pillar is utilization for example you may have a grocery store full of food but if you're an infant and there's no infant formula which is a problem right now there's nothing you can use utilize and utilization can also take many forms.

Perhaps you have food but you don't have a stove to cook it right, You can't eat raw pasta.

And then the 4th pillar which is really crosscuts availability, access and utilization is stability.

So you can think of stability in terms of availability relating to climate change.

You know, we just had a drought, severe drought here last summer and so that impacts our stability.

Of course Canada has, you know, we're pretty stable in terms of our food supply but things like you know the war in Ukraine is obviously going to have a major destabilizing aspect on the supply of food, global supply and then access, you know, I think of income cycles.

You know, somebody might be able to get food when they get their social assistance check.

But then by the end of the month no longer have access to food.

So those are kind of how we generally conceptualize food security as my long winded answer.

Listen, it's it's fantastic, thank you so much.

I mean those four pillars availability, access utilization and stability.

I mean there's so much to unpack in each one of those and we'll come back to that Natalie but just maybe let's flip this around and talk about you know, food insecurity, what impact does that have on the population?

I would say everything we probably don't really appreciate how important food security is.

I'm in the nutrition department and most people probably think of nutrition and of course that's really important and especially at key periods of growth, you know pregnancy, your infants childhood, you know, not having sufficient nutrition can have detrimental impacts on health.

I'd say probably less well appreciated as conflict.

Food insecurity can cause conflict can also be caused by conflict.

You know when there's scarce resources people need to compete.

You know, we also see that no in Canada even injuries, violence are more common in food insecure communities because resources are just so scarce.

So on that Natalie, let's talk a little bit about that.

When you say injuries are caused by food insecurity or by conflict.

Am I understanding that correctly?

Can you just explain that a little bit or what what you mean by that?

Well, I I think it integrate it's part of experiencing poverty, we know that in communities where there's greater poverty, there's more violence injuries because it's kind of part of the social just the social context of scarcity because people need to eat and so you need to find ways to access food and people can turn to different um risky behaviors or work selling drugs or sex work that maybe they wouldn't have done if they had access to the resources that they needed.

Um, and so, and I'm talking about this is in a global context, but I think this also happens in Canada and that is probably under appreciated and under research is how much not having access to these, the basics of life, they're not direct, but it's an indirect effect on health.

I'd say infectious disease.

There is research in Canada people who are food insecure are more likely to also have infectious disease.

And some of that is partially nutritional because you're more at risk of infectious disease.

But it's also, you know, it's not just nutrition, it's it's how then you've managed food insecurity that then can increase your risk of firing various kinds of infectious diseases to, you know, the thing that always amazes me, you know, when you sort of do some research and and and sort of get into these conversations is my understanding is and please correct me if I'm if I'm not correct in my statement, but I believe that, you know, and this is a global comment that there is enough food that is available or prepared or an all use maybe the term accessible with with a caveat on on accessibility, but accessible for everybody in the world yet, so many people go hungry.

And and if I could just even come back a little bit and bring it two Manitoba, you know, because I know you've done some, some studies around um you know, sort of oppressed populations.

Why is it from, you know, from your perspective, if you can share that people go hungry?

Well, like you said in Canada, it's not a matter of not having the food, obviously we're a food producing nation, so it's not the fact that we don't have it.

It isn't primarily an access issue and which disproportionately impacts first Nations may t uh and Inuit populations in Canada as well as other populations.

We know that black Canadians, refugees also experienced food insecurity disproportionately.

And so a lot of that is shaped by for indigenous people colonialism and and the historical impact of that in terms of distance.

And I'm talking now about, you know, northern or remote communities because we've centralized or prioritized this market food system in terms of how, you know, when settlers came and now we have grocery stores here, right?

There were weren't grocery stores before settlers.

So we have this market food system that we have made settlers have made indigenous people now rely upon.

And so that costs more than to ship food, for example, up north and to remote communities.

So the price is very high.

So that's one reason, but of course even in, say Winnipeg where I worked for many years, we don't have that shipping issue.

And so I don't think it's exclusively a shipping issue or exclusively a price issue.

It kind of misses the point because it's kind of the whole the whole system that, you know, many people here in Winnipeg struggle to afford food and are food insecure, Natalie has Covid had an impact on food insecurity?


Okay, so let's talk about that.

How has it impacted or how has COVID-19 had more of an impact on food insecurity than perhaps even before.

What's, what's the multiplier there and what's the impact?

I think we're still working to figure out the exact impact.

Um there have been some survey statistics.

Canada did a survey I think early on in the first wave.

And we know that household food insecurity increased during that time.

We know that food bank usage went up during that time.

Obviously there were huge economic shocks in terms of people losing jobs.

And so that's an aspect of the instability, you know, that I talked about um in terms of a core pillar of food insecurity.

So that instability was a challenge.

And of course now we're dealing with inflation, which is also aggravating existing food insecurity and also getting newer people who are previously food secure kind of into this food insecure realm, even if they are working.

And so it's important to know that a lot of people who are food insecure are still there working and they're still food insecure.

And so uh some of this has to do with, you know, wages and I know in Manitoba, we just announced we're raising the minimum wage.

So there's lots to it.

I mean globally now there's a war in the Ukraine which is a major, major food producer.

So that's going to cause also a lot of challenges as you know, that the supply that would have come now be impacted.

And my understanding of that situation is Ukraine mostly experts exports to Africa.

Uh and so those countries will be feeling the effects of that.

I think one of the challenges with all of that as we look at the impact, because everything is really interconnected globally.

You talk about what's happening in Ukraine, you're, you're absolutely right.

You look, you know, in in kind of Western Canada were, you know, always, you know, kind of when I was growing up on a farm, we were always sort of considered ourselves to be the breadbasket for the world.

And there's probably a lot of truth in that, but you know, when you take a major supplier out of the food chain, there isn't somebody that just can automatically start replanting a crop that's going to produce in days or weeks or months.

I mean the cycle is huge.

And so do you see that as you know, sort of an opportunity for other ways to look at bringing other, when I say other kinds of food Natalie, I'm not even quite sure, let me kind of think about that, what I'm saying there is just that, you know, a lot of times people are very creative and they figure out different ways if something happens and they're trying to fill a gap, is there other elements of nutrition maybe is a better way to look at?

Is there other elements of nutrition that might come into back stop where some of those foods that people were looking for that are not available anymore, just to ensure that there's still nutrition in their diet, you know, not the producer expert, I would say that I've heard from, you know, agricultural economists and people with expertise in this area that, you know, there there will be some other backstop because it's not a perfectly produced this year what people are gonna eat next year, but part of the effects will be the prices are going to rise across the board for those foods that were grown by Ukraine, which are major staples like wheat.

So there will be some backstop, I'd say the challenge I guess is that we get most of our calories from staple crops and that's more the case for food insecure populations where the majority of the calories come from staple crops.

So hopefully, you know, other countries can as well as locally grown and you know, food is grown in africa as well.

Um you know, we'll start to fill that in with other foods, but we're also dealing with climate change and and that's really having, I think detrimental effects because we're having these shocks, you know, and it's very difficult to prepare for for for events.

You're not anticipating right, like a flood or a drought, there's there's challenges there.

And so certainly we have to rely globally on other producers and I think that will continue to be really important.

Um but there's gonna be challenges I think for sure.

And when we looked at the four pillars that you talked about availability, access, utilization, stability, let's just talk a little bit about access because you talked about sort of the economic access and and what I really liked Natalie is the way you sort of frame that in this position, say, for example, 1st 1st Nations, if they're talking about sustenance.

So the ability to, you know, have a boat or to have the availability to go out and sort of capture fish or whatever it may be, or if there if it's bow and arrow hunting or if it's gun hunting to, you know, capture deer or whatever it might be or moose to use that as sustenance.

You know, that that economic access is really interesting talk about, you know, from your perspective, where you see some of the challenges around that access?

Well, I'd say a lot of it is primarily economic, again, because it costs to get a gun, it costs to get a boat or, you know, a snowmobile or what have you that you need to go out and hunt.

So the government of Canada has made a program now because there was criticism initially for um, programs that were primarily focused on market foods because we should be supporting indigenous communities to access food, how they want to access to.

So there I think more programs to support that, that's not my area for research specifically.

So I'm not sure how effective um, those programs have been.

But of course, even if you would then have the equipment now, if there's lots of uh, and and we are seeing this in the north, I know, you know, dwindling animal populations that that's also becomes a challenge, right?

If the animals aren't there, if the fish aren't there, you know, if there's hydro development and and now you have to learn where, where the fish are now because environments are changing and they're changing quickly.

So that goes back to availability.

They're really all they're really all interrelated.

And so I think any time having economic access, financial means, anytime one of those pillars is impacted.

Those who have the most resources will, will be able to deal better with these kind of shocks, right?

Everything is interconnected.

You can't just sort of take a pillar out and sort of say, okay, we can work on three pillars.

There's four pillars there, You know, the availability, availability, I should say in access as you, as you talk about is tied in, you touched on something that, you know, here we are in in 2022.

And um, it's making news headlines around is the lack of infant formula and you look at utilization is one of those areas, what's your sense of what's happened, why we're out of or maybe you're not aware, which is fair enough.

The shortage of infant formula, have you got a comment on that?

You know, I'm not that familiar with the situation other than that?

I know it is a problem.

My understanding I think is it's 11 producer Abbott is not producing something happened in one of their plants.

Sorry, I haven't been keeping up with who's there?

Yeah, no, I just, it happens to, you know, it's just kind of in the news, I just didn't know if it was something that across your desk or something you wanted to wanted to share on that, but what, you know, so maybe let's just back it up a little bit Natalie and talk from utilization standpoint, is there anything in your research when you look at one of those pillars that you can share the importance of what utilization means?

Well, I I recently did a project looking at dietary gluten avoidance because 2% of Canadians avoid gluten, 1% of whom most likely have celiac disease, who can't eat things like wheat, which is a staple in our diet and so for individuals who have celiac disease and live in societies where the state they can't eat the staple, utilize the staple.

You know, there's there's different challenges there and thinking about a non nutritional impact is we know that people who avoid gluten are less likely to go to restaurants because they can't eat the food there and so and and that impact is less, I'd say nutritional as more social, but that also impacts health, you know, as we've all experienced in these last two years, when you can't go socialize, go to somebody's house and eat or go to a restaurant and eat, you know, it impacts our quality of life and and you see that with people who have celiac disease as well, you know, that also impacts people with food allergies and so when you kind of add those two together, it's not a negligible part of the population, you know, that's that's probably upwards of almost 10% probably more.

So that have different, I'd say food intolerances that that struggle Yeah.

You know, I just as a sharing a personal note for sec Natalie, we were very blessed and we have the opportunity to travel um with some friends through europe and one of them happens to be celiac and it's interesting that when before we order, she always has a bit of a translation depending on what country and with their language to present to let them know that she is celiac and I would say that I am really impressed with european restaurants and I'm talking about, you know, by the side of the road or you know, a one or two star, you know better in an urban setting restaurant.

They seem to be very, very in tune to issues around celiac and gluten and it's not like you have to explain it to them, they kind of get it and we've never, ever had an issue, but I want to just sort of talk about the, the gluten piece for a second, because I do think, and I want to reference one of your, your articles where people look at not taking gluten because they feel it will help with their diet, maybe comment on that.

Um sure, so I don't know if this myth, maybe it still persists to the same extent, but for sure, you know, a number of years ago, I would say it was more of a fad to avoid gluten, I don't think.

And from our research, it's not like it's a huge fat or that there's a lot of people who are avoiding it completely or excluding it completely for bad reasons or for weight loss reasons, but there are some um and, and certainly that has kind of gone around social media, there's no evidence to suggest that anybody who doesn't have, you know, celiac disease or not, there's also non celiac gluten sensitivity.

So I hate to make a blanket statement because people should talk to their physician.

Um there might be other reasons why some individuals don't tolerate gluten, you know, some people experience relief from symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome as well.

But for the most part, it's not avoiding gluten is is not a recommended weight loss regime.

There's no evidence to suggest that that that does anything that leads to weight loss.

And so that's a myth, interesting.

And I hope to dispel that there's no, you know, I eat gluten for people who don't have any, you know, bowel troubles or there's no ill health effects from consuming gluten.

Yeah, no interesting because I do think you, as you say, Natalie, it becomes a fad, people sort of jump on it.

Somebody writes a book on it.

The next thing.

You know, you know, there's a podcast about it and people are, you know, getting their information from, from somewhere, whether it's accurate or not, they what they want to believe.

People are always looking for that instant opportunity to lose weight, you know, which uh, I just don't know that that's out there.

So, um let me just jump on for a second.

The fourth pillar, we talked about stability.

Give us some background and why that's important.

When you talk about food security, I think stability matters, I don't, maybe I shouldn't say the most, but I'm very interested in stability.

I'm interested in doing our more research around stability because I think it's probably under appreciated in terms of nutritionally, but also stress of, of having shocks, you know, for people who are on social assistance saying Canada have these regular, I'll call them monthly monthly instability where, you know, you get monthly or maybe you get Canada child benefit and then you, you know, you have influxes of funds to access food, but then there's inevitable shortages every month.

And and you know, that's something that I definitely observed working in a grocery store, that people have regular shortages for periods of instability.

Uh, and I think that that has impacts nutritionally when you're eating per perhaps a lot during certain periods of the month and less at another period.

Um It also has impacts on stress, I would say, which impacts a lot of, you know, our our bodies in terms of our physical health.

And then I think the other in terms of availability is climate change.

You know, and and even things like this rise in inflation and food prices, you know, that's a major um kind of shock to our stability and our availability of food because sometimes there are, I mean, there's been lots of shortages, I'd say over the last couple of years, you couldn't get corn flakes for a while.

And then there's, you know, then there was a aluminum shortage.

And so there's different things, you know, and those are fairly minor because we still have other other foods.

Um, and now there's formula, which is of course much more dire because, you know, there's a population that's exclude their exclusive food or a much bigger part of their diet and say cornflakes, you know, and I've noticed different times, there's certain produce that's not available.

Uh so so I'd say that that type of instability also, I'd say it's more indirect in terms of just our experience of the food system, like, okay, I'm sure a lot of people are already feeling and I'm sure in the US with the formula, it's kind of an ongoing stress of will there be another period of instability?

You know, what's going to go up next?

And then that's kind of why we also had that panic buying earlier in the pandemic.

It's like, oh my goodness, am I not going to have food next week?

So now I gotta stock up, which of course then has other effects on other people, okay, now that person is panicking, I should buy more and I don't think that anybody, you know has ever answered the question Natalie about the toilet paper shortage.

You know, I know that that's not a food issue, but to this day I do not understand and nobody is able to explain the panic on buying toilet paper, hardly any one of the four pillars I get it.

But you know, talk, you know, it's just one of those panic things that sets in and everybody sort of just pivots to it in a way they go any comment on that, there was definitely panic buying, but I think part of the issue that people maybe didn't think about is, you know, all these people were going to work in school and going to the bathroom at work and school for the majority of your day.

And so now no longer the majority of your toilet paper needs at work or school there now at home, but we didn't, I didn't steal the university's toilet paper.

Maybe I should have, you know, maybe there's a stocked up somewhere, you know, Natalie.

But one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about was one of the articles that you wrote and it's called a sin tax on sugary drinks unfairly targets indigenous communities instead of improving health.

What got you motivated to, to write that and and how can how can we improve that situation?

Oh, that's a good question.

Um So I wrote that article with Myra Tate who's at Athabasca University and she's a expert in Tax law, First Nations Tax law.

So that's one of a few articles now.

I've written on sugar sweetened beverage taxes and and that's a very big topic.

It might seem small.

But because I've been researching it now for a few years, you know, that article was specifically written, thinking about First Nations in mind and I'll leave the tax part aside because that's not my specific expertise, that's Myron's expertise, you know, the the focus of sugar sweetened beverages to me has been somewhat taken out of it's been looked at from an a historical a political lens, not really thinking about why, you know, people drink sugar sweetened beverages or why they're disproportionately consumed by indigenous people.

Um and and including First Nations, it didn't occur in a vacuum.

And so I I think a lot part of my research is really to get people to think, I think more deeply about why people consume sugar sweetened beverages, how that happened, and kind of the, you know, the historical context that has gotten us here, and to also think about health more broadly, you know, because it's proposed to tax to say, Pop to improve people's health outcomes.

Again, not thinking about all the broader aspects that influence people's lives and and why they might consume Pop, because it we know that people who consume Pop are disproportionately lower income and food insecure.

And so we're proposing to raise the price of a food that's consumed by people who are food insecure.

And so there's, to me, there's a tension there, and so proponents of the policy think, well, that's who will then drink less of it, and that may be the case, there will be people who will consume less because the price is being raised, but there will also be people who will continue to consume it because the price of the other foods hasn't changed, and people still need to eat and the reasons people drink it has have not been addressed.

And so we also need to think about the health of people who will continue to consume it.

And and in that article specifically, we're talking about water because you need to have something else to drink.

And if you don't have clean drinking water, that's a pretty basic human right, that has not been addressed.

And I think working from the basics up should be kind of the the approach rather than um trying to police what people eat instead of getting those those basic human rights there.


That was long winded.

No, I mean, it's a it's a it's a lot to unpack again, Natalie when you look at that and I I just want to come back to one of the comments that you made about the historical context of how it is that we got here, you know, that we're looking at this from from what your research shows, what what what historically did kind of drive us to a point where there's a sense that the economics as opposed to health, looking at the health of people.

You look at it and say, well, if we if we economically tax and and quote and quote with the idea presumably of taking it out of their ability to to purchase it, that they're going to pivot and go to some other place or do something different.

You have to think about how I'm gonna answer this uh when I'm thinking when I'm talking about historical, I'm thinking even way back, like why do we even have sugar?

You know, the history of sugar is the history of colonialism, we have sugar in our diets because of slavery.

So that's, that's how, you know, this became a big part of our, our diets in, I'd say for sure the Western population obviously India is a major producer of sugar in other places as well.

But in terms of, you know, when settlers came in the caribbean, you know, and, and the american, the southern states, you know, uh, in terms of sugar producing states, that was a big part of it.

And then now all pop in Canada and the US is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

So now that we, there's no longer slavery, we've kind of, we've stopped taking sugar from those sugar producing areas and now we're subsidizing white farmers growing corn on stolen land, but it's causing ill health to marginalized populations.

And they're profiting off of the selling corn, even though indigenous people domesticated corn first, you know, in in north America.

And so, and now we're proposing to profit the government to profit off of oppressed populations consuming it.

It's not random that they're consuming it disproportionately because we've made it cheaper compared to other products and also everybody consumed pop before.

And, and, and you know, food patterns often follow this pattern, like higher income, higher class populations will consume something first and then later it, you know, lower income or lower class populations will then consume it.

And we didn't punish ourselves for consuming it.

And and the reason it causes ill health is complicated by, you know, poverty and food insecurity.

If you look at that lens, Natalie, would you have a suggestion to how we could sort of move away from the taxation piece on things like sugary drinks to looking at the health element of it?

I again, I ask it not that it's a simple answer for a very difficult question, but I just wondered in your research or just even you as a person who's, you know, family ran grocery stores, you you lived it, you know, what, what might you sort of see as a way to try to move away from the sugary drinks into more of a health conscious environment.

Um, I think there's a lot of different things we can do.

You know, in the research we've heard from people that having lower sugar in drinks, it doesn't need to be as high as it is.

Um you know, that's one option obviously addressing food insecurity.

You know, that's a a big challenge.

We know that for example, there's been recent research on the Canada child benefit that was implemented now five years ago.

So families who received the Canada child benefit, Who are lower income, particularly renters utilize most of that benefit to purchase food, I'd say, I think it was almost 40% of that benefit.

And so, and we know that old age security is also associated with reduced food insecurity.

So we know that providing and those can be considered kind of some form of basic income because they're both progressive policies helped to address food insecurity.

And so I think from the spending perspective, you know, making sure that people have the means to purchase food is important.

I realize because I'm setting tax that that money doesn't come from nowhere.

So you know, I do believe we need to look at our taxation system in terms of you know, is it progressive enough?

You know, are we taxing the most wealthy?

Are they contributing their fair share?

You know, these are big societal questions about and I'm gonna come back to the land and I think indigenous people often come back to the land.

This is the source of you know, most of Canada's economic success is natural resources and that's where the bulk of our tax revenue is coming from.

And so how are we going to reconcile that as a society?

I think very much has to do with our taxation system.

You know, that's not a very big conversation that hasn't happened.

But I think about that a lot because it's kind of hard not to go there.

Um so what's fair I think is is that something that as a society we need to you know tackle right.

What I love about these conversations, Natalie is that we started talking about food security, food safety, you know, we've now kind of gotten into the taxation system, but they're all they're all intertwined, you know, so I kind of love the way that you've weave that story.

My my guest today dr Natalie rejigger, Natalie, I'd like to get sort of a sense for those that might be listening.

You know, when you talk about the issue to educate, to mobilize and then really hopefully that people will take action, what would you like people to from an action standpoint?

Think about when they think about food safety and food security?

Well, I think there's um bulk, the change has to come at the systems level.

So I'd say get engaged politically with, you know, voting, voting for candidates who have food security and food safety on the agenda.

Um individually I think there's lots you can do in terms of, you know, supporting your community, not wasting food waste is also a major contributor to food insecurity.

You know, these are small things, but I think that they're, you know, something everybody can get involved in and and also if you are food secure, be grateful.

Yeah, that is something I think that we need to be reminded of on a day by day basis.

And so um I appreciate, I appreciate your kind of wrapping this whole conversation up with that.

Be grateful.

I think it's a great way to go.

So Natalie thank you so much for spending some time uh talking about food safety, food security and a little bit of taxation.

Always a good opportunity to learn.

So I thank you very much for for the good work that you have done and continue to do.

And I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today on humans own rights.

Thanks for having me Stuart.

Humans on rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray.

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