On May 9, 2023, Food Secure Canada facilitated a space for discussion on the future of food policy in Canada. The consultation brought together 140 passionate food movement folks and aimed to ensure that the many facets and voices of the movement are heard in the renewal process led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
The consultation began with updates on the Food Policy by Jason Baillargeon, Director of AAFC’s Strategic Policy Branch, and Melana Roberts, member of the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council (CFPAC) and former FSC chair. Participants then engaged in focused discussions within seven breakout groups, each moderated by a civil society topic expert. The topics were selected based on FSC’s awareness of the government’s emerging priorities, and participants were invited to suggest additional topics.
We are deeply grateful for the opportunity we had to collaborate with the hundreds of stakeholders in the food movement who joined us for this consultation. It was a unique experience to collectively work towards informing a Food Policy for Canada that is stronger, more inclusive, and that supports food system pathways to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Stay tuned for updates on the final recommendations that will be provided to AAFC.
Summary of Breakout Group Discussions
See below for a summary of each discussion, as well as the briefing documents which were provided ahead of the disscussions.
Food Loss and Waste, moderated by Kate Parizeau
- Three main themes emerged during the conversation:
- The role of the federal government as a contributor through policies on donations, measurement, supporting innovation, and infrastructure provision.
- Discussion around the different possible approaches for interventions – including enforcement, financial incentives, education, and knowledge repositories.
- The conversation emphasized principles such as cost responsibility, community involvement, and distinguishing food loss and waste from food insecurity.
- Participants emphasized that food insecurity is an issue of income insecurity.
- The potential for generating income through innovative solutions was acknowledged, but it was stressed that food loss and waste should not be conflated with food insecurity.
Strengthening Indigenous Food Systems, moderated by Larry McDermott
- The group emphasized the importance of Indigenous voice and governance, as well as the need for accommodation and provision for Indigenous governance systems alongside Western systems.
- The significance of Ethical Space, a Two-Eyed Seeing approach for effective Indigenous participation in food policy development was highlighted.
- Participants recognized the impact, just now being discussed, of colonized systems on Indigenous communities – particularly in terms of food production, agriculture’s influence on land access, and the threat posed by the extraction industry to Indigenous food sovereignty.
- Also mentioned as important considerations was funding flexibility to address Indigenous priorities and the need to decolonize perspectives on agriculture.
School Food, moderated by Amberley Ruetz
- The group highlighted the potential of school food programs to promote educational attainment and improve access to healthy food for communities and students.
- Emphasis was given to the need to recognize school food as a means to build community, support local agriculture, and engage with existing community food centers.
- The limitations of current infrastructure – both physical and human resources – in school food programs were discussed, with a call for funding to address these gaps and provide support tailored to each school’s needs.
- Participants also emphasized the importance of food procurement policies, including considerations for food safety, conflict of interest safeguards, and cultural food representation.
- The discussion also touched on the question of extending school food programs to post-secondary education and the need for supporting mechanisms to address food insecurity and promote healthy eating among post-secondary students.
Resilient Communities, moderated by jade guthrie
- A major focus of the discussion was the impact of climate change and climate disasters. The discussion highlighted the importance of both adapting to and mitigating climate change through proactive planning.
- The conversation also emphasized the need to support food production, particularly for young farmers and marginalized communities, by addressing issues such as land access, skills development, and knowledge sharing.
- The group highlighted the need to shift from a corporate, export-focused food production system to a community-focused and regenerative approach.
- Participants recommended strategies such as formalized land sharing agreements, incentivizing farmers, increasing skills development programs, and subsidizing food.
- The discussion also addressed food access and affordability, prioritizing support for marginalized groups, and the connection between environmental racism and the current food system, particularly in relation to the impact on low-income and racialized communities.
Food Security, moderated by Olivia Boyce
- The main theme that emerged was the need for income supports and the complex relationship between food security and household food insecurity. Participants highlighted the importance of defining and discussing these concepts separately. They emphasized the need to connect with the poverty reduction strategy and address the tensions between housing, meeting basic needs, and ensuring everyone has access to necessary support.
- Taking a food systems perspective, they discussed the control and decision-making power within the food pathways and the inclusion of all stakeholders in those conversations.
- At the grassroots level, the group focused on community-led solutions, empowering communities to identify their challenges and develop their own solutions with the necessary support systems in place.
- The group also emphasized the importance of de-commodifying food, increasing food access and control at the community level.
- From a national perspective, participants advocated for a task force that collaborates across departments and sectors, sets measurable targets, and implements accountability measures.
Groupe Francophone, moderated by Vanessa Girard-Tremblay
- Participants highlighted the cross-cutting nature of food security and emphasized the need to prioritize the right to food, legislating its protection.
- Attention was given to Indigenous populations and economically vulnerable groups.
- The group recommended a pan-governmental approach for the renewed Food Policy, brekaing silos and involving multiple departments such as Agriculture, Employment, and Health Canada.
- Participants challenged the current export-oriented agricultural model, with focus placed on fair pricing and prioritizing domestic food supply.
- Participants also discussed food waste, advocating for laws to reduce waste at the source and placing the burden not only on individuals but also on companies.
Food Policy Governance, moderated by Charles Levkoe
- Participants emphasized the importance of cross-departmental collaboration and connections at various scales.
- The need for stable resources was highlighted – including staffing and policy-related connections – to support local food policy councils and ensure community inclusivity.
- The group discussed the concept of food sovereignty, underscoring its relevance to broader public policy discussions.
- Best practices shared included community land trusts, consistent resourcing for local food councils, and leveraging existing policies alongside new ones.
- The group called for a shift away from top-down approaches and a holistic perspective in food systems governance.
- Consistent themes included resource stability, community-scale connections, and the combination of existing and new policies.