by Deron Johnston
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) recently announced, on June 17, that the first ever Food Policy For Canada has been launched. It was a two-year creative process that involved public consultation with 45,000 Canadians including many stakeholder groups from Indigenous groups, food processors, non-government organizations, community advocates and experts in environment, health and food security.
Based on this consultation, AAFC completed the What We Heard report in 2018. This report outlined the priorities that came to light during the consultation process with Canadians. AAFC also consulted with other federal government departments and agencies so that the report would adequately reflect a wide range of government priorities. In the 2019 federal budget, it was announced that over $134 million would be invested in supporting the Canada Food Policy. These investments apparently were a reflection of what was heard during these consultations on what mattered most to Canadians in terms of food issues.
According to AAFC, some federal government departments, have taken actions to address food system issues. For example, programs like income support programs that attempt to reduce poverty can also reduce food insecurity. Policies aimed to improve and support healthier food choices, initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (in the agriculture and food sector) and investments in innovation to increase the agriculture and food sector’s capacity to produce better quality and healthier food, are examples of some of these actions.
Despite this wide range of actions being taken, challenges still exist within our food system. For example, about one million Canadian households don’t have access to healthy food, almost two in three Canadian adults are overweight, and about one third of food produced in Canada is wasted. It may be startling for many to discover that Canada wastes nearly $50 billion in food every year. This is based on a population of 37 million people. By comparison, in 2018, after enacting a food waste policy, France wasted only about $24 billion worth of food based on a population of 67 million. These important societal challenges require solutions that reflect the diversity of Canada’s population and its food system.
The ultimate goal of the Food Policy For Canada was to cooperatively build a healthier and more sustainable food system that supports farmers, producers and food-based businesses across Canada. It seems there is still quite a bit of work to do, but a cohesive national food policy is a good place to start.