Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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A Food Policy for Canada Doesn’t Offer Much to Chew On

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You may have heard that Canada released a food policy last week. Which is great but it seems to be light on specifics and really just a bunch of food-related budget items grouped together and called a policy.

There were a few things in the policy that I was pleased to see: the government’s “intention” to work with the provinces and territories to develop a national school food program. This is long overdue and much needed. A universal  school food program would ensure that children had the nutrition that they need to learn and grow (at least during the school day) and would help alleviate some of the burden on parents who may not have sufficient income or resources to ensure their children have healthy breakfasts and lunches. Unfortunately, I don’t see any money marked for this item and as we head into an election, forgive me if I sound cynical in my “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude. I’m also concerned about who will be involved in developing such a program as we don’t want to fall into the trap of promoting brands or providing unappealing, less than nutritious meals – like we often hear about from our neighbours in the States.

I was happy to see money going toward promoting locally grown and produced foods as well as toward preventing food fraud. However, despite the budget lines devoted to these items sounding huge to me as a dietitian who works with a budget that’s a fraction of these amounts, in the big picture of the government, it’s not very much money at all. They’ve marked $25 million for a buy local produce campaign and $24.4 million to combat food fraud. Contrast this with the $12 million they gave to Loblaw to retrofit their fridges a few months ago.

The part that I’m most disappointed by is the first item mentioned in the policy introduction and that’s their so-called efforts to reduce food insecurity. The example they give is of providing a grant to a food bank so that they can buy more freezers. Are. You. Kidding. Me. Food insecurity is something that I would have loved to have seen this policy address more fulsomely. Unfortunately, they really missed the mark on this important issue. Yes, in some communities and some circumstances, access to sufficient nutritious food is absolutely an issue. However, in the vast majority of cases of Canadians who are experiencing food insecurity the root cause is insufficient income. There are people in every community across the country who cannot afford enough nutritious food for themselves and their families. Continuing to support the food charity model (i.e. food banks) is not the answer. Give the people of Canada a basic income. Empower people to be able to afford to make their own food decisions. Food banks provide an essential emergency service but they were never intended to be permanent solutions to hunger and poverty. Providing more money for food banks only further entrenches them in our food system and society and allows the government to get off easy without making any meaningful effort to end food insecurity.


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Food Friday: #eatthinkvote

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It’s great to see organizations like Dietitians of Canada and Food Secure Canada working to make food (and food security) an election issue. Check out FSC’s Eat Think Vote campaign to find out what they’re calling for an how you can take action.


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Canadian Food Summit 2012 Summary #FS2012

Now that the Canadian Food Summit 2012 is all over I’ve gotten a little bit of fodder for my blog. To be honest, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed being enraged by some of the comments by some of the presenters. I also enjoyed hearing from some like-minded presenters. I think that my favorite part of the Summit was getting to meet so many people from so many different sectors that I don’t normally get to interact with, even though I probably should! I met people from the supplier side of the food industry, farmers, the CFIA, TWO food lawyers (how cool is that, I didn’t even know it was a “thing” before this conference), students, authors, bloggers, fellow public health dietitians, NGOs, and the list goes on. I also really liked the level of engagement via twitter. How great was it to be able to see what others were saying by checking #FS2012? And to be able to have dialogue with the presenters via twitter. I started following 14 new people because of this conference, and I look forward to continuing to hear their perspectives in the future. But I digress…

I mentioned that there were many people at this conference that I should be interacting with and I’m not. One of the presenters I saw, Gaëtan Lussier, mentioned that we often work in silos. This is something that I’m all too aware of and that I hear all too often. I feel like it was a little bit of a missed opportunity that this Summit brought such a diversity of delegates together and yet we didn’t do anything in the way of starting to actually work towards a national food policy together. Perhaps learning from each other was useful. However, I worry that in many of the breakout sessions people stuck to their usual areas of interest. I know that I did for the most part. I think that they should have switched us all around. Everyone in industry should have attended Kim Raine’s presentation on obesity and chronic disease. While people like me should have been made to attend Agri-food industry viability through policy with the GM of Dairy Farmers of Ontario. I really hope that the result of this Summit will be a coming together of many people, from many areas, as citizens of Canada to develop a Canadian food policy that will be in the best interest of the majority of Canadians. As long as we continue with the “us” versus “them” mindset we’re never going to be able to develop a successful food strategy for Canada. The People’s Food Policy  is the product of a huge amount of work and it’s a great read. However, until we have industry and government support it’s going to remain a work of fiction.