The Food Policy

Public consultations on the Food Policy for Canada took place in 2017. Feedback came from people and organizations with a diverse range of perspectives, including from those who work in the food system, and those who are active on food issues such as food security and food waste. The Government of Canada also engaged in a dialogue with Indigenous Peoples and organizations to better understand opportunities and challenges unique to their communities.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) released a What We Heard report in 2018 to outline the priorities of people across the country for the Food Policy for Canada. In addition to taking into consideration the priorities of people and organizations who participated in public consultations, the Government of Canada worked collaboratively across many departments and agencies to develop a policy that would reflect a broad range of government priorities.

Budget 2019 announced over $134 million in initial investments to support the food policy. These investments reflect what was heard during consultations on the food issues that matter most to those living in Canada.

The first-ever Food Policy for Canada will help Canada build a healthier and more sustainable food system – one that builds on a robust agenda to support growth for farmers, producers, and food businesses in Canada.

Why does Canada need a food policy?

Food systems, including the way food is produced, processed, distributed, consumed, and disposed of, have direct impacts on the lives of Canadians. Food systems are interconnected and are integral to the wellbeing of communities, including northern and Indigenous communities, public health, environmental sustainability, and the strength of the economy.

All orders of government, including many federal departments, have taken actions to address food system issues, for example through:

Despite this wide range of actions being taken, issues still exist in the Canadian food system. For example, around one million Canadian households are not able to access healthy food, almost two in three Canadian adults are overweight or obese, and about one third of food produced in Canada is wasted. These important societal challenges require multi-faceted solutions.

Aligning food system actions

The social, health, environmental, and economic components of food systems are interdependent; however, they are often addressed in isolation. To tackle complex food issues, coordinated and coherent approaches are needed.

As decisions about food are made by individuals, organizations, and as a country, broader linkages across food systems need to be considered to ensure effective actions are taken. Collaborating across government and across society to work toward mutually reinforcing goals can increase the collective capacity of all actors in the food system to build a healthier and more sustainable food system that supports communities and the economy.

What is food policy?

Food policy is developed to guide food-related decisions and actions. It is an approach to understanding and addressing the linkages within food systems and a plan for making decisions about food. This approach can help guide public, private, and non-profit sector actions related to improving food-related outcomes and create space for working together across sectors. It can also help individual Canadians understand impacts and opportunities for change within the Canadian food system.

Vision: setting a common direction for the future of food

To work together across sectors toward a better food system for all, the Government of Canada is launching the Food Policy for Canada with a vision for the future of food in Canada:

All people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious, and culturally diverse food. Canada’s food system is resilient and innovative, sustains our environment and supports our economy.

The Food Policy for Canada will set a foundation for increased integration and coordination of food-related policies and programs. This will enable greater long-term planning, enhanced coordination by the Government, and improved accountability through regular reporting to Canadians on progress and achievements.

Food policy will bring diverse actors and stakeholders from across the food system together through the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council and will be supported by research and analysis to inform collaborative food system decision-making.

The policy consists of a vision, priority outcomes to achieve the vision, action areas to make progress on outcomes, and principles to help guide work on food system issues. Specific and measurable targets for each of the priority outcomes will also be developed by federal partners with input from the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council.

The Food Policy for Canada will be evergreen and adaptive. The policy is being launched as a platform that can be built upon over time as the Government of Canada continues to work collaboratively across all orders of government and with a broad range of organizations. To ensure the Food Policy for Canada is well-informed by diverse perspectives, ongoing engagement with the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council and with Canadians will also support further development of the policy.

Together, individuals, organizations, and the Government can work toward a future of food that is resilient, diverse, and abundant.

Priority outcomes: achieving the vision

Defined outcomes are needed to achieve social, health, environmental, and economic progress and measure results when addressing food issues. Six long-term interconnected and mutually-reinforcing outcomes have been identified to support better long-term planning for the Canadian food system. Enhanced coordination of existing, new, and future policies and programs across Government will help make progress toward these outcomes and achieve the food policy’s vision.

Foundational elements: supporting implementation

Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council

The Food Policy for Canada will be supported by the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council. The Council will bring together diverse perspectives to support the implementation of the policy. The membership of the Council will include individuals with experience and knowledge of food system issues, with backgrounds in the food and agriculture industry, members of academia and civil society, as well as members of Indigenous organizations and communities.

The Council will incorporate diverse perspectives in its advice to contribute to building consensus on the nature of food challenges and solutions to address them, building greater trust among key food system stakeholders, and supporting the ability to collaborate across sectors. The Council will also help identify data gaps and opportunities.

Reporting on Results

To support the Food Policy for Canada, a cross-government reporting framework will measure and track progress towards priority long-term outcomes, holding the government accountable for results and ensuring transparent reporting to Canadians. It will also support decision-making that is based on evidence of effective approaches to tackling food system issues.

Action areas: taking action to address key gaps (2019-2024)

Four significant areas within food systems have been identified as key areas that require action in the short and medium term to support long-term outcomes. While initial actions reflect the most pressing needs and priorities for 2019-2024, future actions taken by the Government of Canada will consider emerging needs over time. The Government will take into consideration advice provided by the Canadian Food Policy Council to identify future action areas.

Principles: guiding the approach

Overarching policy principles provide direction and guidance for action on food-related issues. Food system actors are encouraged to consider these principles in their work. These principles will guide the Government of Canada when designing and evaluating options for policies and programs with a direct impact on food issues.

Inclusion and Diversity

All people living in Canada are able to be part of an ongoing dialogue on food issues. Decisions are made after gathering and considering diverse interests and perspectives.

Reconciliation

First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in Canada have distinct food systems that have been nurtured and developed over many generations. Reconciliation begins by acknowledging how historic Government policies have disrupted these food systems, and ensuring that decision-making going forward:

Collaboration

Improved integration across food-related policies and programs, as well as across the Canadian food system.

Collaborative approaches among governments, organizations and stakeholders, Indigenous communities, and individual Canadians are enabled. Dialogue among all orders of government is promoted while respecting jurisdiction. The Government of Canada works with the agriculture and food sector, organizations and stakeholders, and Canadians on a basis of mutual trust and transparency.

Innovation

A food system that encourages a broad approach to innovation and is adaptable as priorities shift.

Sustainability

A food system that supports social, cultural, environmental, and economic sustainability.

Decision-making supports sustainability, taking a broad perspective that integrates these considerations:

Evidence and Accountability

Food-related policies and programs are evidence-based, transparent, accountable, and results oriented.

Targets

Specific and measurable targets for each of the long-term outcomes will be developed with input from the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council. Evidence to measure progress toward the long-term outcomes and supporting targets will be addressed with assistance from the Council.

For example, sub-targets that could be further explored, with input from the Council, include reduction in the number of food insecure households in Canada, reduction of food losses along the food supply chain, and reduction of food waste within federal government facilities and operations.

Targets will also align with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, such as:

Existing commitments

Federal actions towards achieving the Food Policy for Canada outcomes and supporting targets will also help meet existing Government of Canada commitments, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals mentioned above and goals set by the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table.

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