By Marg Land
R ecently, the Conference Board of Canada launched its vision for the future of the country’s food system – the Canadian Food Strategy.
The 61-page report was officially released during the Third Canadian Food Summit, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in mid-March, and examined five key elements – industry prosperity, healthy food, food safety, household food security and environmental sustainability.
“The strategy’s broad scope is essential,” explained Michael Bloom, vice-president of industry and business strategy with the Conference Board of Canada. “It reflects the widely held view of Canadians that our food system encompasses more than the food industries. It also includes multiple economic, social, and environmental dimensions. This is a blueprint for change.”
The strategy sets out eight goals:
- The food sector is viable and prosperous
- The food sector is innovative, competitive and growing
- Up-to-date policies, laws, and regulations address food industry and household interests
- Canadians eat healthier and have balanced diets
- Canadians have low rates of diet-related chronic diseases
- Canada is the world leader in food safety
- All Canadians have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food
- The food sector is an excellent environmental performer that increases food production sustainability
“Canadians want food that is safe, nutritious, available to everyone and produced in ways that are environmentally sustainable,” said Bloom. “We can achieve these goals and, at the same time, capitalize on abundant opportunities to export food to the rest of the world.”
It also contains more than 60 desired outcomes and provides 110 action strategies that can be used to achieve them.
The report represents four years of research and dialogue through the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Food in Canada. It was developed through a process involving 20 major research studies and consultation with experts, stakeholders and the public.
Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, discussed the need for a “Canadian Food Strategy” during the Conference Board of Canada’s 2012 Food Summit.
“I want Canada to be part of the food solution – for Canadians and the world,” he said at the time. “I want Canadians feeding Canadians, and I want Canadians helping to solve global food shortages. That is what we have always done – feed the world. I think we can do it.”
So why did the Conference Board decide to tackle this project? According to the report, it was observed a shared national vision for food was lacking in Canada, especially one that promotes collaboration.
“The strategy focuses on how collectively, as well as individually, we can make substantial progress in addressing the wide range of challenges facing us and make the most of our plentiful opportunities in the food sector,” the report stated.
So now that it’s out in the public eye, what is next for the Canadian Food Strategy? The report itself even stresses that following the strategy is voluntary.
To encourage implementation and track progress, the Conference Board of Canada has announced three initiatives it intends to use to promote the strategy. These include:
- Establishing the Canadian Food Observatory, which will monitor progress in the food sector and measure the sector’s progress toward implementing the strategy.
- Producing an annual report card summarizing the progress made in the previous year
- Undertaking additional research on new and emerging issues within the food industry.
With this report, the Conference Board of Canada is urging all Canadians across all spectrums of society to become involved in making this country’s food system the envy of the world while also helping to educate and assist other countries. It’s a noble goal and it will be interesting to see if the strategy will achieve the broad engagement it requires from both the government, the private sector and the community as a whole.
To view the food strategy report, visit www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library.