Goal 2: Support a healthier and more sustainable food system
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Why this goal is important
Canada's food system helps to provide safe and healthy food and ensure long-term food security both domestically and internationally. This Goal's focus on a healthier and more sustainable Canadian food system directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:
- 2.1: By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
- 2.3: By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, Indigenous Peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment
- 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality
Food affects the daily lives of all those living in Canada. It provides the energy and nutrients needed to live a healthy life, brings together communities, and creates economic growth and jobs. Food systems, including the way food is produced, processed, distributed, consumed, and disposed of, have direct impacts on the lives of Canadians and are integral to the well-being of communities. In particular, Indigenous and northern communities have specific needs and challenges in accessing affordable and nutritious food.
The agriculture and agri-food sector is a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. Seizing opportunities in both domestic and international markets is critical to the economic growth and profitability of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. In 2021, the agriculture and agri-food system employed 2.1 million people and generated $134.9 billion (around 6.8%) of Canada's gross domestic product. Realized net income (RNI) for Canadian farmers has generally risen since the mid-2000s and has seen particularly strong growth in 2020 and 2021. RNI reached a new record of $13.5 billion in 2021 as strong growth in receipts offset sharply higher expenses, demonstrating the resilience of the sector in the face of significant disruptions such as wildfires, floods, droughts, and labour shortages.
Agriculture is grounded in nature and depends on a healthy environment, including clean water, healthy soils, and stable pollinator populations. As the planet faces a climate crisis and loss of biodiversity, sustainable agricultural practices and resilient food systems have never been more critical. Farmers and ranchers are stewards of the land and are helping to identify solutions to environmental challenges such as climate change, water quality issues and species at risk. They must also be resilient, responding to climate change, extreme weather events, invasive alien species, and other risks that can affect their ability to continue producing a consistent supply of food while maintaining a decent income and standard of living.
To meet these challenges, Canada's agriculture sector is adopting innovative technologies and practices, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, storing carbon in soils, protecting water, and supporting wildlife habitat. Farmers are adopting clean technologies, climate-smart farming practices and beneficial management practices using techniques such as no-till, low-till, cover cropping, rotational grazing and agroforestry. There is potential to achieve further progress through measures such as increased use of natural climate solutions.
A sustainable and resilient food system is essential for ensuring food security in Canada. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. When people experience food insecurity, it affects their quality of life, increases nutritional vulnerability and contributes to poor physical and mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a number of challenges in ensuring sufficient access to nutritious food for all, and food insecurity has worsened due to factors such as unemployment rates. In 2020, 11.2% of Canadian households experienced moderate to severe food insecurity. Indigenous, Black, and other racialized households are more likely to experience food insecurity in Canada.
For Indigenous Peoples, access to safe and nutritious food includes both store-bought and traditional or country food. Indigenous Peoples face unique challenges in ensuring food security, including the remoteness and isolation of many Indigenous communities, access to clean water, financial hardship and socioeconomic inequities, climate change, and environmental dispossession and contamination. The Government of Canada is advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples by strengthening traditional food systems, recognizing the importance of food to Indigenous culture and well-being, and, in so doing, supporting Indigenous food self-determination and food sovereignty.
How the Government of Canada contributes
Canada is investing in ways to promote innovative, sustainable food systems and ensure Canadians have access to safe and nutritious food, and is working to maintain the resilience of food systems by managing the spread and introduction of invasive plant and animal species that could pose a risk to livestock, crops, and agricultural production. Programming that promotes food security in Indigenous and remote communities continues through financial assistance for local and community initiatives.
In partnership with provinces, territories, civil society, industry, and Indigenous governments and organizations, the Government of Canada developed A Food Policy for Canada to tackle food issues that matter to Canadians. The Food Policy serves as a roadmap to healthier and more sustainable food systems in Canada with a vision that all are able to access safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership also highlights the importance of collaboration in achieving sustainable food systems. The partnership is a $3 billion 5-year investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership will expire on March 31, 2023, and will be replaced by the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership on April 1, 2023.
Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers, through the November 2021 Guelph Statement, have agreed to a vision for the next policy framework that would see “Canada recognized as a world leader in sustainable agriculture and agri-food production.” This includes tackling climate change and environmental protection to support greenhouse gas emissions reductions and the long-term vitality of the sector while positioning producers and processors to seize economic opportunities from evolving consumer demands. Ministers also agreed to a new Resilient Agricultural Landscapes Program, to support carbon sequestration, climate change adaptation, and address other environmental co-benefits.
The Government of Canada has committed to developing a Green Agriculture Plan in consultation with the agriculture and agri-food sector, Indigenous Peoples, and stakeholders. The plan will establish a long-term vision and approach to agri-environmental issues in order to advance the sustainability, competitiveness, and vitality of the sector. It will coordinate efforts between existing programming and targets, while identifying gaps and opportunities for future action. Investments through programs such as the Agricultural Climate Solutions program and the Agricultural Clean Technology program are targeting increased support to farmers to develop and adopt nature-based agricultural management practices to reduce emissions, store carbon in healthy soil and enhance resiliency; adoption of clean tech on farms, including for renewable energy, precision agriculture and energy efficiency; and working with farmers and stakeholders to reduce methane and fertilizer emissions in the agricultural sector.
Different regions and communities have different needs when it comes to accessing safe and nutritious food. In Inuit Nunangat, the government is committed to improving food security through the Harvesters Support Grant and the Nutrition North Canada program. The Harvesters Support Grant, launched in 2020, supports hunting and harvesting related activities in eligible communities to strengthen local food systems and support cultural restoration and revitalization. It is rooted in Indigenous Peoples' self-determination, local and traditional decision-making structures, and the preservation of Traditional Knowledge around Indigenous food cultures and ways of living.
Meanwhile, the Nutrition North Canada Retail Subsidy Program helps lower the cost of nutritious food and other essential items in 121 isolated communities whose food insecurities are heightened because of climate change and environmental dispossession and contamination. This program makes nutritious food and other essential items more affordable and accessible than it would otherwise be. The government also provides targeted social programs and income supplements such as the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement that help improve access to essentials, including nutritious food (see Goal 1 for more information).
Internationally, Canada plays an active role in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and takes part in global conservation programmes such as the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Canada also supports initiatives under the United Nations World Food Program, and has co-sponsored a World Trade Organization statement committing to not using export restrictions or prohibitions on non-commercial humanitarian food purchases by the World Food Programme, which will help to ensure that trade rules support progress toward SDG 2.
Inuit-Crown Food Security Working Group
The legacies of colonial policies in Indigenous and northern communities have contributed to a reliance on market foods from the south. High levels of food insecurity are present in these communities, where a lack of access to traditional and market sources of nutritious food is exacerbated by climate change. The government is committed to working with partners to address food insecurity, including through programs developed collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples.
A key partnership is the Inuit-Crown Food Security Working Group, established in 2019 to provide a whole-of-government approach to food security and leverage the contributions of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the 4 regional Land Claim Organizations, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and the National Inuit Youth Council, as well as multiple federal organizations. It is a sub-group of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, established as part of the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism process to advance shared priorities between Inuit and the Government of Canada.
Food Security in an Indigenous Context
Food security for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples is a direct result of the protection of their environment, waters and lands and of the management of their territories. While food insecurity particularly affects Indigenous communities, food security in these communities requires support for initiatives that promote respect for Indigenous rights, sovereignty, self-determination, values and cultures. These initiatives are an important part of food security because traditional foods and local food systems, as sources of sustenance, have a highly sacred value. Food insecurity needs to be addressed in a holistic manner, including assessing the cumulative impacts of climate change and other environmental impacts on food security.
Research aimed at improving food security and food sovereignty has grown in recent years in Indigenous communities. These studies, conducted by and for Indigenous people, are fundamental to ensuring the integration of their knowledge to enhance traditional foods. It is also crucial to stress the importance of wildlife conservation and hunter support programs for food security.
The promotion of food security, food systems and food sovereignty offers a unique opportunity to work with Indigenous actors in the communities, as no single organization, sector or approach can address the complex issues at hand.
Source: Perspective provided by a member of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council
Stakeholder perspective: Our Food Future
Located in Guelph and Wellington County, Ontario, Our Food Future is an Infrastructure Canada-funded Smart Cities initiative committed to creating a regional circular food economy that increases access to nutritious food, fosters innovative circular collaborations, reduces food waste and affects positive system-level change. Our Food Future's more than 40 collaborator organizations are working on 50+ innovative projects across an urban-rural testbed with the goal of developing solutions that deliver new economic, social and environmental benefits, and that can scale across the country. In the first two years, Our Food Future projects delivered 77,000+ meals and 57,100+ food boxes to community members; developed new technologies and business models that upcycle food waste; and diverted more than 6,400+ tonnes of food waste from landfill.
Source: Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad