Food Insecurity: A Solution Grows Under Your Feet


Food insecurity is a serious problem that plagues many countries and this includes the United States and Canada. The number of individuals and families who can’t afford three meals a days has drastically risen over the past decade and there is no indication of those numbers coming down anytime soon. So many organizations are out there trying to help in their community yet time and time again the immediate and long term solution never gets attention; education programs to teach people about wild edible food is food security.

Food Insecurity Facts

Throughout 2012 in the United States there was an average of 46,609,072 people on food stamps every month and that spiked to 47,791,996 people in December 2012. When 15 percent of a ‘wealthy’ nation’s population is food insecure every this rings alarm bells. Putting those numbers into terms that makes the jaw drop, that’s 13,309,217 more people on food stamps in the US than the entire population of Canada.

Canada has a significantly lower population but per capita, they are almost neck-and-neck with food insecurity.  They have 93,000 people accessing food banks for the very first time every month and almost 12 percent of their population is food insecure.

Children and Food Insecurity

Paul Roderick Gregory, a contributor addressed this issue in an article earlier this year. He cited statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture that reveal staggering childhood hunger rates. His research from these sources indicated that 20 million children live in food insecure households.

Now yes, some of these children are getting lunches as school, but just how nutritious are these? With Congress passing nonsensical laws claiming that the tomato paste on pizza and french fries are a vegetable serving  clearly indicates that they are probably numb to the fact that one in three children under the age of 18 will inevitably develop diabetes in their lifetime. Apparently they never took into consideration that childhood obesity has skyrocketed since 1980.

Free Nutritious Food Grows Everywhere

There is no need to be without nutritious food because edible wild plants grow all around us. Wild plants (or weeds as many say), provides us with an endless bounty and it is all free food! Edible wild food is not only free but in many cases some of these plants have more nutrition than store-bought produce.
Here are a couple of examples of common everyday weeds that are loaded with nutrition:

Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) is a common ‘weed’ that grows virtually everywhere throughout the U.S., Canada, and worldwide. The entire plant can be eaten. Young leaves are preferable but larger leaves can be used as well. Either way, they can be eaten raw, cooked, tossed into a smoothie, or made into a tea. Many people blanch the leaves in boiling water before using them in salads in order to make them tender. Once blanched plantain can be frozen so that it is handy to have throughout the winter months. Once thawed, use these in a sauté, soup or stew. Broadleaf plantain contains a wealth of nutrients such as: vitamins A, B1, B2, B2, B3, B6, B12, and C. It also contains dietary fibre as well as many health-nourishing minerals.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is another common plant that is categorically invasive in many areas. All parts of this plant are edible. The flowers and leaves can be used in a salad and it makes a fabulous pesto as well.  Garlic mustard roots taste very spicy, somewhat like horseradish. This invasive plant has substantial levels of vitamins A, C, E, and some of the B’s. In addition to calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, manganese, and iron, garlic mustard contains Omega-3. This plant first made its way to American shores in the late 1800’s because it was valued as a nutritious source of food.

Hippocrates once stated: “Let thy food by thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”  Just about every wild plant that is edible also has medicinal values. Implementing wild edibles into your daily diet will provide your body with incredible nourishment and in return good health (depending on lifestyle habits).

Food insecurity does not have to be a problem if those who are working to help the poor implement a wild food education program in their community. The solution truly grows under your feet.

Stephenson, Karen. Fields of Nutrition, York Region: Self Published, 2012. Print.

Karen Stephenson
Karen is a professional writer, researcher, and author. She spends much of her time teaching people about wild edible plants via her website (, public speaking, and leading wild edible walks. She is passionate about proper nutrition, reading labels, and sharing her knowledge about the food industry with others.

She has been in the media, on the radio, and in 2014 will be on "Living Wild" on OLN.