it’s not a national holiday, but Food Freedom Day is something Canadians should be aware of. February 12 marks the day when the average Canadian will have earned enough income to pay their entire year’s grocery bill.
Food Freedom Day also demonstrates the value that Canadian farmers deliver to all Canadians according to Ron Bonnett, president, Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) in an online statement – not only through quality food, but supporting one in eight jobs, which in turn translates into vital contributions for our rural communities.
Canadian farmers provide some of the most inexpensive, healthiest and nutritious food in the world. And as Canadians, we enjoy one of the lowest-cost “food baskets” in the world. As a comparison, Food Freedom Day in Iceland is in late February while in Mexico, it doesn’t come until early March. However, only 27 percent of an entire week’s worth of groceries for a Canadian family of four (ranging from four percent for grain products to 35 percent for dairy products) goes back to the farm – and although consumer food prices go up, the amount that goes back to the farmer stays the same or even goes down. That’s why the CFA initiated the National Food Strategy, an initiative to develop a long-term vision for a sustainable food system for the entire food chain – from producers to processors and retailers to consumers.
Canadian food purchases have changed drastically in the last 30 years. The CFA noted many food items are now ready-to-eat, value-added products – and in spite of this – total spending on food has only seen modest increases. But, during the same period of time, the portion of consumer spending working its way back to the farm is relatively small, particularly when the rising costs of production are taken into account. A study conducted in Manitoba showed that even though the cost of a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four rose to $194.23 in 2009 from $188.24 the year before, this increase was not passed along to farmers. Consumers paid $6.01 more for groceries during that time period, and farmers received $0.86 less.
The wide variances in commodity prices, along with changing consumer demands and environmental concerns have brought about the need for the National Food Strategy according to the CFA who is engaging all points of the agri-food industry value-chain to advocate for this initiative. The overall goal of the strategy is to ensure Canada provides the healthiest, safest, most nutritious, environmentally responsible and abundant food source for Canadians and consumers abroad today – and tomorrow. The first of its kind in Canada, the National Food Strategy establishes a shared strategic vision for our food system that will serve as a clear guide for public policy development and private decision making to secure a sustainable food system for our country. This vision is identified in nine strategic objectives within the strategy that have been outlined to meet and serve the needs of future generations in Canada as well as the global community. Once developed, the National Food Strategy is meant to be a living document, revisited regularly, to provide guidance for policy and programs affecting and affected by food. To learn more about the National Food Strategy and its objectives visit nationalfoodstrategy.ca.
Food is a necessary part of our day-to-day lives. And as Canadians, we don’t often give a second thought to its abundance, expense or sustainability. Food Freedom Day provides us with an opportunity to be thankful we live in such a bountiful nation where not only do we have food today, but our own agriculture and agri-food industry is taking an initiative to secure our food for tomorrow. •