Eat Think Vote is a non-partisan campaign, gathering community members across Canada to chat with federal candidates ahead of the upcoming election. Our goal is to make sure that food is an election issue, and that the next government develops policy that encourages a food system where no one goes hungry, where food is healthy and respects the environment.
Each ETV event is centred around food – a meal, a harvest, a snack – creating an approachable space to talk about the food issues that matter to Canadians. Starting in summer 2019, events will take place in community organizations, collective gardens, farmers markets, healthcare centres, schools, and many other gathering places.
The policy backgrounders for Eat, Think, Vote were developed in a collaborative fashion with FSC members and colleagues. An invitation was sent out via multiple newsletters and our website, seeking volunteers to review and update existing FSC policy documents and/or propose new topics. A follow up was done to reach out to area specialists. Several backgrounders were added based on submissions. Though all backgrounders received input from multiple sources, they are not intended to be definitive or complete. The backgrounders are intended as conversation starters. More backgrounders are in development, stay tuned as we add them during the summer.
Everyone in Canada should have both physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Yet four million Canadians, including 1.15 million children, are food insecure and struggle to put food on the table. That’s equal to one in eight households and one in six children living in food insecurity.
Food insecurity takes a substantial toll on physical and mental health, engendering significant costs to the health care system. In Ontario, healthcare costs were 121% higher for adults living with severe food insecurity, even after adjusting for social determinants of health such as education and income.
In a country as prosperous as Canada, eradicating food insecurity is an ethical obligation. Ensuring access to affordable high quality, nutritious food is important, but this requires more than attention to food prices and the geographic dispersion of food retail outlets. For households, the primary determinant of food affordability is purchasing power, which is a function of the adequacy and stability of their incomes and associated purchasing power. While the causes and experiences of food insecurity are complex, the overwhelming factor is poverty, and policy solutions must therefore address income levels.
Read more about food insecurity in our policy backgrounder below, developed in partnership with Community Food Centres Canada.
School food programs offer a wide range of benefits to students and their communities that would advance the federal Healthy Eating Strategy and Food Policy for Canada. A cost-shared investment in healthy, universal school food programs would address many of the issues that Canadians have identified as priorities across the Food Policy for Canada’s four themes of food security, health and food safety, environment, and economic growth.
Grassroots organizations, charities, and provincial funding enable one in five children in Canada to access a school food program, and yet Canada is the only G7 country without a National School Food Program. A federal investment would leverage these efforts to expand their impact and improve all children’s health and educational outcomes, lowering future healthcare costs while supporting farmers and local economies.
Read more about a universal cost-shared national school food program in the backgrounder below, developed in partnership with the Coalition for Healthy School Food.
Indigenous food systems are deeply connected to Indigenous economies, cultures, health, and wellbeing. The destruction of traditional Indigenous food systems, including hunting, fishing and gathering, is connected to a broader process of cultural genocide and a deterioration of health and wellbeing in Indigenous communities. While food was often used as a tool of colonization, it has the potential to be a tool for healing and asserting Indigenous food sovereignty.This requires respect for treaty rights and a commitment to building nation-to-nation relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
As the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty writes, talking and consultation are not enough. Addressing the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a crucial component of reconciliation; in addition, however, Indigenous knowledge, ways of knowing and cultural practices must be respected and encouraged, and hunting, fishing and gathering must be supported as key food provisioning activities alongside farming and ranching.
Across the country, growing numbers of post-secondary students are facing hunger and food insecurity on their campuses. There are now food banks on almost every university and college campus in Canada, and while there is a lack of national data, the number of Ontario postsecondary students accessing food banks is rising.
Student food insecurity is worsening in recent years due to high tuition fees and growing student debt, compounded by rising housing and food prices, in addition to a challenging labour market.
We need to better support students as they go through a critical time of growth and learning to become tomorrow’s leaders.
Learn more in the backgrounder below.
Food is a basic human right, and we all have the right to feed ourselves, our families and our communities in dignity. The concept of the right to food commits to the long-term goal of ending, not merely reducing, hunger and food insecurity. It enshrines available, accessible, adequate and sustainably produced food as a human right with corresponding obligations on the state, to ensure the full realization of that right.
The right to food implies a move away from focusing on low prices of foods and a reliance on charity-based approaches such as food banks, to policies that focus on rights-based social protection, redistribution of resources, protection of living wages and support of local and sustainable food production.
The way we eat is leading to high rates of diet-related chronic disease, costing the public purse $13.8 billion a year. Foods that are processed or high in sugar continue to take up a significant portion of our dining room tables, while foods such as vegetables and fruits are left behind. In addition to the impact of diet on health, the impact of food production on climate and the environment needs to be considered. It is time to change our diets not only for the health of people but also for the health of the planet.
As we work towards healthier eating across Canada, we need to ensure access, both physical and economic, to local, sustainable and culturally appropriate food.
How do we get there? Check out the backgrounder below.
Synthetic pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are common in much of our food production in Canada, but the use of these products can negatively affect the environment: polluting waters, degrading soil health, putting biodiversity at risk, and contaminating neighbouring farms.
Canada needs leadership that will help our food systems transition to ecological agriculture – one that supports farmers’ shift away from reliance on synthetic pesticides and genetically modified crops, and encourages the regeneration and preservation of biodiversity, water quality, and soil health.
Read more in the backgrounder below.
An alarming number of people in Northern Canada live with hunger from day to day, especially Indigenous communities. Food security in the North is more than just having a full stomach, it is also closely tied to culture, identity, and rights for self-determination.
Food insecurity in the North is compounded by the effects of climate change and the ongoing legacy of colonialism, which has crippled traditional Indigenous food systems. Urgent action is needed to address this mounting public health issue, and solutions must be made with and for the communities themselves.
Read more in the backgrounder below.