The Context: Canada urgently needs a national food policy. Close to two and a half million Canadians are food insecure. Farmers and fishers are going out of business, our natural environment is being pushed to the limit, a quarter of Canadians are considered obese, and we are the only G8 country without a nationally-funded school meal program. The status quo is no longer an option.
The need for change is widely recognized and plans to develop national food policies or strategies are being advanced by many sectors, including all five federal political parties and influential industry groups. The People’s Food Policy is significantly different from these initiatives. It is the first-ever national food policy to be developed by the food movement itself – a diverse and dynamic network of organizations and individuals working to build a healthy, ecological and just food system for Canada.
The People’s Food Policy embodies a wave of concern, interest and action by citizens who are increasingly questioning how our current food system is organized. From connecting directly with food producers, to reclaiming indigenous food systems, to setting up food policy councils, people across Canada are taking actions daily that are transforming our food system from the ground up. These actions need to be translated into policy.
The Process: Over the course of two years, over 3500 Canadians participated in a groundbreaking grassroots project to define paths towards a food system that can provide adequate amounts of healthy, acceptable, and accessible food for all. The People’s Food Policy is based on ten detailed policy discussion papers. These discussion papers were generated through an extensive process that included three hundred and fifty Kitchen Table Talks, hundreds of policy submissions, dozens of tele-conferences, ongoing online discussions, and three cross-Canada conferences. These discussion papers include both whole-of-government policy recommendations and concrete guidelines for how the proposed changes can be put into action.
The Proposal: The People’s Food Policy is rooted in the concept of food sovereignty. This is an internationally-recognized approach where food is viewed as a primary foundation for healthy lives, communities, economies and eco-systems. Key elements include:
Ensuring that food is eaten as close as possible to where it is produced (eg,: domestic/regional purchasing policies for institutions and large food retailers, community-supported agriculture, local farmers markets, etc.).
Supporting food providers in a widespread shift to ecological production in both urban and rural settings (eg, organic agriculture, community-managed fisheries, indigenous food systems, etc.), including policies for the entry of new farmers into agriculture.
Enacting a strong federal poverty elimination and prevention program, with measurable targets and timelines, to ensure Canadians can better afford healthy food.
Creating a nationally-funded Children and Food strategy (including school meal programs, school gardens, and food literacy programs) to ensure that all children at all times have access to the food required for healthy lives.
Ensuring that the public, especially the most marginalized, are actively involved in decisions that affect the food system.
The People’s Food Policy is being launched in collaboration with Food Secure Canada, the voice of the food movement in Canada, uniting groups and individuals working towards a food system that is healthy, ecological, and fair for producers and consumers.
For detailed policy recommendations and analysis, please refer to “Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy for Canada,” as well as the ten accompanying policy discussion papers, due to be released in the spring of 2011.