Canadian advocates – who believe food security and social justice are closely linked – are leading a collaborative effort that aims to eliminate disparities and inequities in food systems.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need for all of us to work together to build healthy, sustainable and just food systems,” says Gisèle Yasmeen, executive director of Food Secure Canada (FSC), who was recently named as a member of the new Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council, along with food policy expert and FSC board chair Melana Roberts.
“This is a historic opportunity for horizontal collaboration across both governmental departments and food sectors,” says Ms. Yasmeen. “The new advisory council will allow for consensus building and engagement in order to realize and grow the ambitious but essential and timely vision of the [Food Policy for Canada].”
Listed priority outcomes for the policy include vibrant communities, strong Indigenous food systems, sustainable food practices, improved health and inclusive economic development.
Ms. Yasmeen welcomes the opportunity for an independent, multi-stakeholder body with a diversity of voices to advise Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. The initiative aims to inform a national food policy with specific and measurable targets for priority outcomes.
“Whether it’s food insecurity, food fraud, food waste or promoting the good stories of our agricultural producers, collaboration is the key,” says Minister Bibeau in a press release. “This advisory council is a first of its kind in Canada, and reflects our vision for a sustainable food system in Canada built on an inclusive approach. Each [member] has a unique set of experiences and knowledge that will help improve the way government programs are developed and implemented.”
Board Chair of Food Secure Canada
A collaborative approach across government departments, fields of work and disciplines is essential for tackling complex challenges, agrees Ms. Yasmeen, adding that FSC has been working in partnership with community food advocates and civil society to push for the creation of a national council as a tool for bringing more perspectives to the policy-making process.
“The food policy is a roadmap towards greater accountability and public engagement in food systems governance,” says Ms. Roberts, who is actively engaged in supporting community-led food security initiatives in Toronto. “We are in desperate need of policy leadership that not only addresses the mounting levels of food insecurity but also advances racial justice and food sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples, Black communities and racialized groups – who are most disproportionately impacted by gaps in our food system.”
FSC is committed to engaging its members, partners, allies and food movement leaders to inform policy, with the goal “to increase the space for participatory decision-making in the public interest,” says Ms. Yasmeen. “There is ample opportunity to push for greater representation of those with lived experience of food insecurity and those working in closely related fields, such as anti-poverty, climate justice and local economic development.”
The slogan for the policy, “Everyone at the table,” reflects the need for actors across the food system to work together on solutions to systemic issues. Only in collaboration can we achieve meaningful progress towards the three interlocking goals of zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.