2024 Budget Review: There is work to be done.

While this year’s budget includes one of our longstanding priorities, we are still a long way from food systems that are just, healthy and sustainable.

The Government of Canada’s 2024 pre-budget announcements meant early celebrations for Food Secure Canada (FSC) and the Coalition for Healthy School Food on April 1st. In a historic win, we welcomed a $1b commitment over five years towards the establishment of a national school food program. This brings us into line with the vast majority of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries whose youth already benefit from school food. Marissa Alexander, co-Executive Director of Food Secure Canada adds, “well-designed school food programs help Canada to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including health, education, gender equality, sustainability, and local livelihood goals.” Policy details for this program including implementation, long-term funding and universality remain to be determined, but we look forward to working with the Coalition as they lead efforts to encourage Premiers to step up and align school food with local and sustainable food production.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced further budget outcomes on April 16th. FSC is pleased to see the replenishment of the Local Food Infrastructure Fund for three years, including an emphasis on financing Indigenous and Black community infrastructure as well as school food capacity. The continuation of the Harvesters Support Grant is an important prioritization of Indigenous food sovereignty but falls short of addressing excessively high rates of food insecurity in northern communities. Together with the much larger investment in the school food program, these announcements provide some modest further financing of the Food Policy for Canada, but falls far short of what is needed to implement its vision. FSC will continue to advocate for the significant commitments that are required to bring about transformative change in our food system.

While there were many measures that aimed to improve affordability over the long-term, such as the Tenants Protection Fund and the inclusion of birth control and diabetic medication in the National Universal Pharmacare, there is still more urgent work to uplift households with the lowest incomes. The new Canada Disability Benefit’s maximum allowance of $200/month is an undignified amount of money, and with such lukewarm, piecemeal approaches we are far from meeting the basic needs of most Canadians. And while there was a raise of the capital gains tax on wealthy individuals, bringing it back to pre-millenium norms, corporate Canada was largely left off the hook.

The rates of food insecurity in Canada are at their highest since monitoring began. In 2022, 6.9 million people – including almost 1 in 4 children – experienced food insecurity. The pattern of hunger also reflects Canada’s ongoing colonialism and structural racism, with the percentage of children living with food insecurity among  Black (46.3%), Indigenous (40.1%), Arab (33.4%) and Filipino (32.9%) households astoundingly high. When it comes to food affordability, FSC would like to see bold government action to ensure Canadians have adequate incomes, large retailers are restrained from excessive profiteering, and wholistic approaches to food provisioning are well supported. Dismantling the prevailing systemic racism and colonialism in food systems requires consistent action-based intersectional solutions. These solutions should encompass Indigenous foodways, support for diversified retailing, and other distinct and alternative food provisioning. 

Despite persistent areas of improvement, FSC remains hopeful in the collective effort and continued collaboration on addressing the gaps within food systems, food sovereignty and food security.