Canadians are in the process of developing a national food policy. This is exciting because it gives us the opportunity to create a world-class food system. Here are some ideas that can help guide us along that path.
Recognize the right to food
Canada has ratified the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which gives our government a duty to guarantee that all Canadians have access to adequate food. There are several ways we can accomplish this.
One is by supporting workers and improving social programs to guarantee that we all can afford adequate, nutritious food. Another is by making sure that international trade and investment agreements do not undermine programs that support sustainable livelihoods and food sovereignty.
Support healthy and sustainable diets
The government has announced a Healthy Eating Strategy, which is a great first step. We can help this along by integrating sustainability into Canada’s Food Guide. This will create a policy link between healthy eating and sustainable food production.
We can also create a national healthy school food program to ensure that all school children learn basic food skills and have access to healthy, nutritious meals every day.
Support sustainable food systems
Unsustainable farming and fishing practices put a huge strain on our land, waterways and oceans which threaten our food-production systems. Through the next Agricultural Policy Framework, we need to look at ways to reward best practices in environmental sustainability and climate resiliency.
We can also revise Canada’s Fisheries Act to better protect fish habitats and support sustainable fisheries in coastal communities.
Make food a part of reconciliation
Food has often been used as a tool of colonization, but it can also be used as a tool for healing and reconciliation. Indigenous food systems are deeply connected to Indigenous economies, cultures, health and well-being.
We can work with Aboriginal peoples to ensure they have more sovereignty over the foods they eat and are guaranteed access to traditional land-based foods and fishing and hunting rights.
Invite more voices to the table
Canadians want a say in how their food is produced. We need to take the discussion out from behind closed doors where industry and government decide what is best for the rest of us. We all need to join the conversation.
We can do this by ensuring the consultations on national food policy are accessible and comprehensive and that special steps are taken to hear the voices of people living in food insecurity, youth and civil society organizations, and not only industry.
We Canadians have everything we need to be a world food-policy leader – natural abundance, universal health care, culinary diversity, dynamic businesses, a vibrant and engaged civil society and people who love talking about food. I believe we can eliminate hunger and elevate food as a critical element in our plans for a more sustainable and healthy country.