A first for Canada
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, along with Parliamentary Secretary Jean-Claude Poissant, joined stakeholders on June 17, from across the food system at the Carrefour Alimentaire Centre-Sud to launch Canada’s first-ever federal Food Policy. Courtesy photo
MONTREAL – Canadian foods are recognized worldwide for the highest standards of quality and food safety. Responsible for one in eight jobs across the country, the Canadian food sector is a powerhouse of the economy, particularly in rural communities. However, more needs to be done to improve the food system. For example, too many Canadians aren’t able to reliably access enough healthy food. Too many children are learning on empty stomachs; and Canada wastes more than 11 million metric tons of food every year, worth nearly $50-billion.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, along with Parliamentary Secretary Jean-Claude Poissant, joined stakeholders on June 17, from across the food system at the Carrefour Alimentaire Centre-Sud to launch Canada’s first-ever federal Food Policy.
“The Food Policy for Canada is our roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system for our country. The investments and initiatives in the food policy will contribute to economic growth, better nutrition and food security for all Canadians,” said Minister Bibeau.
The Food Policy for Canada is an ambitious initiative, the product of consultation and collaboration with Canadians across the country. The Government of Canada heard from more than 45,000 Canadians, including food producers and processors, experts in environment, health and food security, Indigenous groups, non-government organizations and community advocates.
“Throughout our consultations, thousands of Canadians told us how meaningful the development of a collaborative federal food policy would be. Now, by working together to deliver the Food Policy for Canada, we can address food challenges across our country and make this vision a reality,” said Poissant.
The vision for the Food Policy for Canada developed through these consultations is: All people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food. Canada’s food system is resilient and innovative, sustains the environment, and supports the economy.
To realize this vision, the Government of Canada is investing $134-million through Budget 2019, which includes new initiatives to help achieve key objectives.
A central piece of the Food Policy for Canada announced is the creation of a Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council. The council will bring together the expertise and diversity needed beyond government to address the challenges of today, as well as the future of Canada’s food system. An open and transparent process, that includes letters of nomination, will begin over the summer.
Also announced is the launch of a five-year, $50-million Local Food Infrastructure Fund, designed to support community-led projects that improve access to safe, healthy and culturally diverse food. Starting Aug. 15, eligible organizations will be invited to submit an application through the first intake period for non-repayable funding of up to $25,000.
Minister Bibeau also highlighted other Food Policy of Canada initiatives, including: a new Canada Brand and Buy Canadian promotional campaigns that will aim to increase pride and consumer confidence in Canadian food; support for community-led projects like greenhouses, community freezers, and skills training that address food challenges and food insecurity in Northern and isolated communities; a challenge fund to support the most innovative food waste reduction ideas in food processing, grocery retail, and food service; new funds to help the Canadian Food Inspection Agency crack down on food fraud – the mislabelling and misrepresentation of food products – to protect consumers from deception and companies from unfair competition; and to take the first steps to work alongside provinces and not-for-profit organizations towards the creation of a National School Food Program.
The Food Policy for Canada aligns with the objectives of initiatives across the federal government, such as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the Heathy Eating Strategy, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, among others.
“Today we had the opportunity to show Minister Bibeau how just one local organization can make an impact in the wider community. There are hundreds of other groups like ours all across the country whose objectives directly align with the new Food Policy for Canada,” said Marie-Claude Morin-Ouellet, culinary education coordinator, Carrefour Alimentaire Centre-Sud.
Of the $134.4-million investment in the Food Policy, funds will be broken down as follows.
Local Food Infrastructure Fund of $50-million to support a wide range of community-led projects that aim to improve access to safe, healthy, and culturally diverse food. Northern Isolated Community Initiatives Fund of $15-million to support community-led projects like greenhouses, community freezers, and skills training to strengthen Indigenous food systems, and combat significant challenges in accessing healthy food in Canada’s North. Buy Canadian Promotion Campaign of $25-million to promote Canadian agricultural products thanks to a new Canada Brand, and through online and in-store Buy Canadian marketing campaigns, in order to increase consumer pride and confidence in Canadian food. Reducing Food Waste of $26.3-million to work with experts to develop a challenge to fund the most innovative food waste reduction proposals in food processing, grocery retail, and food service – as well as leadership by the federal government to cut its own food waste. Tackling Food Fraud of $24.4-million to crack down on mislabeling and misrepresentation of food products, helping to protect consumers from deception and companies from unfair competition. National School Food Program in which the government is taking the first steps alongside provinces and not-for-profit organizations towards the creation of a National School Food Program, to help improve the overall health of our children as they learn, leading to better futures for them, and ultimately for the country.
The Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council will establish an advisory body with the expertise and diversity needed to sustain momentum and dialogue on food-related issues that matter to Canadians. The Advisory Council will bring stakeholders and experts together to better understand diverse perspectives, work toward a common understanding of food issues, and facilitate collaborative action. Letters of Nomination for the Advisory Council will be solicited from organizations across Canada. The council will likely include a diversity of members from the agriculture and food industry, health professionals, academia, non-profit organizations, Indigenous organizations, and will be open to provincial and territorial participation. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will provide final approval of the members on the council. More information will be available in the coming months.
The Food Policy will help Canada meet its commitments under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including to end hunger, promote good health, cut food waste and encourage a sustainable food system. New and improved federal programs such as the Canada Child Benefit and the top-up to the Guaranteed Income Supplement, are helping the most vulnerable Canadians access healthy food. Since 2015, 825,000 Canadians have been lifted out of poverty, and the government has met its target of reducing poverty by 20 per cent, three years ahead of schedule.