[Media release] Study finds Strong Support for Increasing Access to Sustainably Grown Foods

Montreal 30 May, 2019 - Today, Food Secure Canada is releasing new research investigating how consumers living with low-incomes value and access sustainably grown foods, what barriers they face in doing so and what policy measures could be undertaken to facilitate greater access to sustainable foods.

In a country where one in eight Canadian households experiences some level of food insecurity, regular consumption of sustainable foods is not always an option, even though it is valued,” said Gisèle Yasmeen, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada. Through a consumer survey of over 1,500 Canadians, and focus group discussions with fifty people living with low-incomes, income/cost was identified as the most significant barrier to purchasing sustainable foods. “People living with low-incomes who participated in our focus groups repeatedly told us that they were having to choose between rent and food, even though they would like to prioritize healthier foods.

Canadians living with low-incomes also reported lower access to smaller specialty grocers and farmers’ markets in their neighbourhoods where sustainably grown foods tend to be more readily available. Based on the survey, Canadians living with low-incomes are three times more likely to report challenges getting to the places where they buy food (grocery stores, convenience stores, farmers markets etc), particularly due to difficulties with walking/mobility.

Poll results show that despite barriers, the public values sustainably grown foods. A majority of survey respondents buy sustainably grown foods “at least sometimes” (70% of high-income and 64% of low-income Canadians). When asked about which aspects they value most in sustainably grown food from a broad definition (“locally-grown food that is produced without pesticides or genetically modified organisms, uses fair labour practices for farm workers, and treats farm animals humanely”), Canadians across income groups ranked as extremely/very important: ‘treating farm animals humanely’ (62%), ‘using fair labour practices for farm workers’ (59%), growing food without pesticides (46%), locally grown food (43%), growing food without the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) (42%) and food being certified organic (16%).

Identifying sustainably grown foods where they shop was another barrier for consumers. From the survey findings, certified organic and locally-grown foods are considered relatively easy to identify, yet Canadians have difficulty judging other aspects of sustainability, particularly how animals and farm workers are treated in food production. This is notable as, based on poll data, these aspects are valued over others.

Canadians are looking to policy-makers to support increased access to, and information about, sustainable foods”, said Jennifer Reynolds, Program Manager. “Our poll shows 80% of Canadians surveyed support policy options that help more people access more sustainably grown food.” Policies showing high levels of public approval include: providing support for local farmers so they can grow markets for sustainable, local food (84% support) and supporting public institutions like schools and hospitals to serve more local, sustainably grown food (82% support).

Other highly-rated policies include: providing more support for community gardens and farmers markets (77% support); ensuring everyone in Canada has a guaranteed minimum income and can adequately feed their families (75% support), and offering subsidies (fresh-food stamps, farmers markets tokens, or funding supplements) so sustainably grown vegetables are accessible to low-income Canadians (69% support).

With a Local Food Infrastructure Fund in the 2019 Budget, along with other initiatives to improve our food system, we look forward to the launch of a Food Policy for Canada that will support greater access to sustainable foods for all”, said Gisèle Yasmeen. “All over the world evidence is pointing to the need for sustainable diets. The connections between individual health, population health and planetary health are irrefutable. By supporting widespread access to sustainable foods, policy-makers can help build a more just, healthy, and environmentally sustainable Canada”.

About Food Secure Canada

Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty through three inter-locking goals: zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems.

The Food Secure Canada Research Report Sustainable Consumption for All: Improving the accessibility of sustainably grown foods in Canada is available at https://foodsecurecanada.org/sustainable-consumption-for-all.

For this research Food Secure Canada has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or of the Government of Canada.



About Food Secure Canada

Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty through three inter-locking goals: zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems.


For more information :

Gabrielle Spenard-Bernier

Communications Coordinator, Food Secure Canada

514-271-7352 | 514-591-5891