By Jean-Charles Le Vallée
The Canadian Food Strategy, launched by The Conference Board of Canada in March 2014, recognizes that change is essential both to meet current and future food needs to come. Canadians want foods that are safe, nutritious, affordable and available to everyone, as well as produced in ways that are environmentally sustainable. We can achieve these goals while also taking advantage of abundant and growing opportunities to further export to the world.
The Strategy contains five key elements: industry prosperity, healthy food and diets, food safety, household food security, and environmental sustainability. Each element is represented in the Strategy through eight high-level aspirational goals. It is the product of four years of research, national surveys and national dialogue through the Conference Board’s Centre for Food in Canada (CFIC). The broad scope is essential. It reflects the widely held view of Canadians that our food system encompasses more than the food industries. It also includes multiple economic, social, and environmental dimensions, making it a blueprint for change.
The complete food supply and value chain needs to be viable and prosperous to ensure that a satisfactory food supply is available to Canadians — that includes local producers, processors, retailers and operators of all sizes. To encourage implementation efforts and to track progress on Canada’s food performance and potential, CFIC established the Canadian Food Observatory to monitor progress in the food and beverage sectors and measure progress in achieving the goals of the Strategy over time, measured within each element separately through their particular metrics.
There is a need for such data and benchmarking analysis. CFIC’s approach to food performance is inductive, practical, and linked to concrete action. Food metrics must be credible to stakeholders and able to leverage the food system. They should spur stakeholders to act, make management decisions, finance investments, build programs, and improve dietary, consumption and production choices.
The Canadian Food Observatory will produce an Annual Report Card: Food in Canada — Performance and Potential, summarizing the progress made in the previous year, using metrics established by the Observatory. In this, its inaugural year, the report card will assess Canada’s national food performance compared to 16 leading OECD countries. In 2016, the report card will evaluate Canada’s domestic food performance across all 10 provinces covering all five elements of the Canadian Food Strategy. The report cards will alternate yearly thereafter.
The report card will be launched at The Conference Board of Canada’s upcoming annual Canadian Food & Drink Summit 2015, in Toronto, Oct. 26 to 27 (#CBOCFood). The report card will offer clear, widely accepted evidence of food system and food sector performance that can enhance public awareness and commitment to action. The summit’s engaging sessions and exciting lineup of leading food experts and experienced practitioners will share world-class practices and insights on how to engage food businesses, governments, non-profit organizations and Canadians to take action to advance Canada’s food performance and potential.
Additionally, the summit will feature a stimulating session on the next year’s food performance measurements at the provincial level, an influential opportunity to provide input into the design, format and substance of the provincial report card comparing domestic food performances. Together, delegates will have an opportunity to identify the best ways of measuring the performance of Canada’s food system to ensure, foster, and provide for a healthy, secure, sustainable, safe, and prosperous food system.
For instance, if agriculture multifactor productivity, returns on capital employed, soil quality, and the cost of nutritious food baskets improve, Canada could reach its desired outcomes in the Strategy. This good performance could benefit the food economy, the wellbeing of Canadians, and the ecosystem itself. Conversely, worsening performance would represent a failure to achieve the desired outcomes, and could pose risks to Canadians, the food system and its stakeholders. Currently, worsening domestic food performance metrics include obesity levels, fruit and vegetable intake, water quality, and the return on assets in agriculture.
I look forward to joining you in these important deliberations during the upcoming annual Canadian Food & Drink Summit 2015 (#CBOCFood).
Jean-Charles Le Vallée, PhD, Senior Research Associate/Chercheur principal, Centre for Food in Canada, The Conference Board of Canada. For more information contact Le Vallée at [email protected] or visit www.conferenceboard.ca/cfic/