Food Guide Launch : Reaction round-up

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 1:09pm

Canada’s new Food Guide was launched January 22nd in Montreal, at the iconic Jean-Talon public market. Our team was thrilled to be present. We applauded its scope, going beyond simply what to eat and getting to how we eat: encouraging more plant-based foods and less highly processed foods, and eating more mindfully and together.

That said, we believe the new dietary guidelines open the door to crucial next steps, addressing how poverty and food insecurity influence diet and health, and beginning to consider cultural dimensions and the environmental impact of our food choices. Members of Food Secure Canada, and other commentators drew attention to these important challenges.

We need to change the way we support our agricultural system to make desirable foods (e.g. nutritious and local fruits and veggies) more accessible, physically and financially. “There is a huge demand for affordable, accessible and culturally diverse produce that our government should be doing more to address.” states Paul Taylor, ED at FoodShare Toronto in his Opinion Editorial in The Star about access and inequality.

Furthermore, the burden on public spending caused by chronic diseases is costing Canadian taxpayers billion of dollars. “Diet-related diseases are the single biggest risk factor for death and disability in this country...They cost our health-care system $26 billion every year. And this massive health inequity diminishes us as a society.” points out Nick Saul, President and CEO of Community Food Centers of Canada in his Opinion for Maclean’s focused on poverty.

Treena Delormier, Associate Professor at McGill’s School of Human Nutrition, underlines that food security and food sovereignty are “central” to discussions of nutrition for Indigenous peoples. In an APTN news article she says now that traditional foods have been identified as “important and nutritious,” the next question is: “how do we now make programs, or learn from other programs, that support…communities to access food that is their right to access?”

Since the Food Guide is widely used by schools and other public institutions, the launch drew attention to the ongoing campaign for a national school food program. National Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, Debbie Field, welcomed the food guide in the Montreal Gazette, but noted “... without an investment from the federal government in healthy school food, it will not have its intended impact.”

Then, while Health Canada’s firewall against private industry lobbying as the new Guide was prepared was widely praised, industry fought back in the media and through other governmental channels. With two other critical pillars of the Healthy Eating Strategy still in play (Bill S-228 to regulate marketing of “not so healthy food” to kids and the front-of-packaging labelling legislation for food high in sugar, salt and saturated fats) will evidence-based policy making in the public interest prevail again? Learn more in these two other pillars here.

Finally, as Diana Bronson explains in her interview with Global News, the Food Guide is not the miracle tool that will fix our food system. The Guide’s success will lie in the the roll-out during the coming years: it needs to be applied adequately in school cafeterias and on hospital menus, and above all, income security needs to be addressed.


You might also enjoy reading:

New Canada's Food Guide is a giant step forward, dietitians say | Montreal Gazette, January 22, 2019 | By Catherine Solyom (Covering school food, sustainability and food security)

Canada’s new Food Guide is a good upgrade, but skirts around issues of inequality | The Globe and Mail, January 22, 2019 | By André Picard

Canada's new food guide might be free of industry influence, but the great food fight isn't over yet |, January 26, 2019 | by Kelly Crowe

Northern foods are now on the plate in Canada's new food guide |, January 30, 2019 | by Sara Frizzell and Katie Toth


Top: Minister PetitPas Taylor and Debbie Field (Coalition for Healthy School Food Coordinator)

Bottom: Food Guide Demonstration at the launch

Credit: Minister of Health

Debbie Field (Coordinator, Coalition for Healthy School Food), Diana Bronson (Food Secure Canada), Jennifer Reynolds (Insititutional Procurement Program Manager, Food Secure Canada)