First national food policy to ensure reliable access to healthy food

Published On June 18, 2019 | By Asmita Munde | News

Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announcing the National Food Policy in Montreal. (Facebook/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Asmita Munde

The federal government announced the nation’s first national food policy Monday to ensure Canadians have reliable access to healthy food.

Most Canadians do not have reliable access to healthy food because of the country’s complex food distribution system of the country. There are different government departments that deal with food production and distribution, this policy integrates all the food-related sectors.

“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 Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in the statement release. The country’s first National Food Policy, ‘Everyone at the Table’, was announced in Montreal on Monday.

Bibeau, along with Parliamentary Secretary Jean-Claude Poissant, launched the policy that brought together stakeholders from food-related sectors and was outlined in the 2019 federal budget , where the government will be investing $134.4 million in the policy.

This policy was developed after consultations with the public and organizations that represent farmers, the food industry, food security activist organizations, the environment, health and Indigenous organizations.

Gisèle Yasmeen, executive director of Food Secure Canada, said many organizations have been in favour of a national food policy for years.

Gisèle Yasmeen, executive director of Food Secure Canada said her organization had been pushing for a food policy for 18 years. (Food Secure Canada)

“Even in a wealthy country like Canada, people live with food insecurity and poverty and a national food policy was needed,” said Yasmeen.

According to the federal government statement, the vision ensures “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 our environment, and supports our economy.”

The policy will address reliable accessibility to healthy food, food loss and wastage, and food security.

Under the policy, two promotional campaigns were announced — ‘Canada Brand’ and ‘Buy Canada’ — to make Canadian-produced food the first choice for consumers.

“Most Canadians do not know if what they are eating is Canadian-sourced or not,” said Natalie Riediger, assistant professor of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

Riediger said the policy shouldn’t only focus on food, but also incomes or the spending capacity of Canadians.

Apart from supporting the Canadian farmers and agro-products, the policy also addresses complex food issues through key federal initiatives including the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Heathy Eating Strategy, and Canada’s Food Guide.

“It is an integrated policy that brings all issues related to food sector like the agriculture, health, environment and trade issues,” Yasmeen said.

Riediger said the policy is an opportunity for various sectors to communicate better and create a mechanism to deal with the complexities of the food system.

The policy includes the creation of a National School Food Program, a step towards providing food to students through schools. Funding amounts for the program were not announced.

“It is an ambitious national program, but the education system is provincial, therefore any major changes would require cross-jurisdiction policy-making,” Riediger said.

The Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council will also be established to bring diverse perspectives on food-related issues and facilitate collaborative action.

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