Canada's Action Plan for Food Security (1998)

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1 Canada's Action Plan for Food Security (1998)

2 Prime Minister's Message...3 Minister's Message...4 Executive Summary...5 Part I: Understanding Food Security...9 Defining Food Security...9 Parallels in Canadian and International Food Security...9 Canadian Perspective on Food Security...11 Part II: Domestic Actions...12 Commitment One: An Enabling Environment...12 Commitment Two: Access to Food...14 Commitment Three: Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development...21 Commitment Four: Trade and Food Security...24 Commitment Five: Emergency Prevention and Preparedness...26 Commitment Six: Promoting Investment...28 Part III: International Actions...30 Commitment One: An Enabling Environment...30 Commitment Two: Access to Food...32 Commitment Three: Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development...34 Commitment Four: Trade and Food Security...38 Commitment Five: Emergency Prevention and Preparedness...40 Commitment Six: Promoting Investment...43 Commitment Seven: Implementation and Monitoring...45 Part IV: Conclusion...47 Implementation and Monitoring of Canada's Action Plan for Food Security...47 Appendix I: Members of the Joint Consultative Group...49 Appendix II: Acronyms and Abbreviations

3 Prime Minister's Message We are blessed with a great country, endowed with immense natural resources, boundless human potential and a long tradition of helping others, both within our country and with our neighbours in the rest of the world. We work hard to improve our standard of living, pursuing broad-based, equitable economic growth, protecting human rights and freedoms, caring for our natural environment and striving to provide all Canadians with the opportunity to realize their dreams. Ensuring that all Canadians are food secure is an important element of that standard of living we all cherish. This Plan is a significant step forward in developing a national approach to address food insecurity in Canada and abroad. It builds on our longtime involvement in international efforts which began with our participation in the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization at Quebec City in Since then, we have been an active member of the multilateral system, and we have worked with and supported a wide variety of other international organizations, thousands of community-based groups and Canadian voluntary organizations in a dedicated effort to end hunger at home and abroad. Canada's Action Plan for Food Security is a reflection of this experience. It is the result of extensive consultations with our partners in Canada and abroad, and I am most grateful for their contributions. Together with representatives from all levels of government in Canada, they have crafted a road map for the Canadian contribution to the World Food Summit target of reducing by half the number of undernourished people no later than the year 2015 and to eventual food security for all. Over 50 years ago, Canada pledged itself to a world that was free from hunger, free from want, with enough food for all. This Action Plan is a symbol of our dedication to that commitment, and to the people of the world. I invite all of our partners around the world to join us in ending hunger and achieving food security for all. The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien Prime Minister of Canada 3

4 Minister s Message Over 800 million human beings do not have enough to eat in a world that produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child. This exceptional paradox - global food security alongside individual food insecurity - has galvanized the collective conscience of the world community. At the World Food Summit in Rome in November 1996, Canada joined 186 other nations to endorse the Summit's goal - to reduce the number of undernourished people by half no later than the year The world food situation has been improving steadily since the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization over 50 years ago. Production has risen, food prices have dropped and a greater proportion of the world's people have gained secure access to food. Despite this progress, the conundrum remains: far too many people are undernourished, their health impaired, their potential blighted, their lives a daily struggle for survival. Canada shares this paradox. As a major exporter of food and related products and expertise, and as one of the world's largest donors of food aid, Canada has made some very valuable contributions to world food security. At the same time, we must recognize that we are not immune to the problem of food insecurity in our country. There are vulnerable people in Canada who are unable to meet their food needs without compromising other basic needs. But there is hope. The experience of the last five decades has taught us many things about the nature of food insecurity and many of those lessons have been incorporated into the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. Canada's Action Plan for Food Security is based on those lessons. It is also based on the shared responsibility of all stakeholders involved in achieving food security: the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, civil society organizations and institutions, the private sector, and ultimately, each and every individual. Canada's Action Plan for Food Security is the result of extensive consultations between and among these stakeholders and represents a multisectoral consensus. Canadian voluntary and community organizations have played an important role in this process. We are committed to ensuring Canada's follow-up to the World Food Summit, beginning with this Plan of Action for the Government of Canada. We would like to thank all those who have collaborated in this important initiative. We also wish to thank them for helping us all to keep in mind who this Plan is for: the communities and people of Canada, the people in countries in transition, and the people in developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. The Honourable Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister responsible for Canada's follow-upto The World Food Summit The Honourable Diane Marleau Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for La Francophonie 4

5 Executive Summary Canada's Action Plan for Food Security is Canada's response to the World Food Summit (WFS) commitment made by the international community to reduce by half the number of undernourished people no later than the year It builds on a wide range of existing international commitments which affect food security, including agreements on international trade and environmental issues, conventions on human rights (including women's and children's rights), social development, education, housing and urban development. In addition, it builds on commitments and actions which flow from current domestic programs such as Canada's own Nutrition for Health: An Agenda for Action; Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan; revisions to legislation, including the Fisheries Act; and Canada's evolving economic, social and environmental programs and policies. This Plan is the work of a Joint Consultative Group (JCG) composed of both government and civil society (1) representatives (see Appendix I for membership). During the drafting discussions, it became apparent to the JCG that it was dealing with a wide range of issues, many of which are complex and interconnected. To assist the reader in an initial understanding of how food security was perceived during these discussions, Part I, a short introductory section entitled "Understanding Food Security", has been developed. It is not meant to be comprehensive, nor does it pretend to be conclusive; it is simply a frame of reference for the actions which follow. The structure of this document is based on the WFS Plan of Action endorsed by 187 countries at the World Food Summit in Rome in The WFS Plan of Action contains seven commitments, which also form the backbone of this document. Part II outlines Canada's plan for actions in the domestic environment, and Part III outlines Canada's plan for actions in the international environment as a donor to developing countries and countries in transition; as a member of the multilateral community; and as a trading nation. Each action is followed by a list of the main implementing organizations in parentheses. Lastly, Part IV details Canada's approach to the implementation and monitoring of its Action Plan. In the context of Canada's obligations related to the goal of the WFS, this Plan presents the Canadian perspective on the complex issue of food security, and then sets out the actions themselves within the broad context of current challenges. It recognizes that food security implies access to adequate food and sufficient food supplies. Poverty reduction, social justice and sustainable food systems are essential conditions. The Plan acknowledges the important role that civil society plays in contributing to food security and recognizes the achievements of the academic community and private sector in expanding production and improving access to food since the global effort to end hunger began in earnest some 50 years ago. Information sharing, partnerships and intersectoral cooperation play a key role in Canada's approach. 5

6 The Plan is a work in progress which forms a basis for further discussions on the specifics of implementation, including timing, roles and responsibilities, coordination mechanisms and related actions. It is open-ended and flexible, adaptable to changing conditions and responsive to evolving needs. It is not an exhaustive inventory of existing programs or planned actions; rather, it is a blueprint which sets out the highest priorities as identified by members of the JCG. These priorities are outlined below. The order in which they appear does not reflect an order of importance but rather follows the order of the seven commitments. Priority 1: The right to food reiterates Canada's belief that this right is an important element in food security and underscores the need to better define the meaning of this right, and the actions required to implement it. Actions include civil society support to the International Code of Conduct on the Human Right to Adequate Food, and all sector participation in national and international efforts to clarify the meaning of the right to food towards its full and progressive realization. Priority 2: The reduction of poverty is an important element in the strategy for addressing food insecurity in both domestic and international actions, based on the notion that a key condition for food security is access to sufficient resources to purchase or grow food. International actions are influenced by Canada's poverty reduction focus in its development assistance program; actions include maintaining or exceeding the 25% Official Development Assistance (ODA) target for investments in basic human needs such as food and nutrition, education and primary health care. The Plan also reaffirms Canada's commitment to engaging citizens in policy making and program design in the area of poverty reduction. Priority 3: Promotion of access to safe and nutritious food is seen as a critical component of food security. In developing countries, actions on micronutrient and vitamin supplementation of foods contribute to improved nutrition. Breastfeeding is also highlighted as critical to infant health and nutrition worldwide. In Canada, commitment to this is furthered through actions to support working mothers, hospital programs, mother and child health care and other initiatives in support of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Beyond the promotion and protection of breastfeeding and other food security conditions, caring practices, and health and education measures are important for the nutrition security of mothers and children, particularly, but not only, in developing countries. Priority 4: Food safety underlines the new threats to global food supply posed by the rapid increase and deep market penetration of new and exotic foods from a variety of trading partners, which may constitute a safety or disease hazard; by environmental contaminants, especially in traditional food sources in Canada's Far North, which are also a threat to safety; and emergencies or disasters, which can cause problems such as contamination from hazardous chemicals or disease-causing micro-organisms. In addition, lack of knowledge about preparation and storage of foods is identified as a threat, mainly at the household level. Actions to ensure safe supplies and safe handling 6

7 include enhanced public education, better product labeling, enhanced biotechnology assessment, improved monitoring methods and stronger multisectoral partnerships. Priority 5: Traditional food acquisition methods of Aboriginal and coastal communities acknowledge the important role that hunting, fishing, gathering, bartering and trading play in the food security of many communities in Canada and abroad. By sharing their awareness of traditional foods and their knowledge of sustainable natural resource practices, indigenous people have an important contribution to make in achieving the World Food Summit's goal. Actions related to the reduction of environmental contaminants, sustainable management of resources (including fisheries) and appropriate supplementation with high-quality commercial foods, strengthen access to food for these communities. Priority 6: Food production emphasizes the critical role of research, rural development and investment in the productivity of the agriculture and agri-food sector. This priority makes a strong link between the sustainable management of productive resources and the production of sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food for all. It demonstrates the need to support local production, particularly in developing countries, where agrarian reform, participation of affected communities (including women producers) and fulfilment of basic human needs are essential to successful rural development programs. In Canada, actions aimed at enhancing agricultural production include: supporting sustainable resource management, continuing to invest in and build research capacity and encouraging investment in rural areas. Priority 7: Emphasis on environmentally sustainable practices explores some of the most pressing challenges to food production. Canada's actions in support of this priority are channeled through its support to a wide variety of commitments under current international agreements. Internationally, this covers specific challenges to developing countries in such areas as water resource management, community forestry, sustainable population growth and respect and preservation of indigenous knowledge. For Canada, additional actions complement these agreements to enhance stewardship of natural resources in the areas of northern contaminants, sustainable fisheries management, biotechnology, climate change and biodiversity. Priority 8: Fair trade outlines the potential impact of liberalized trade regimes on incomes and overall welfare, and indicates the possibility that there may be adjustment costs in non-competitive sectors. Actions within this priority involve enhancing trade in the food and agri-food sectors, particularly for developing countries, while achieving a better understanding of the impacts of liberalized trade on people vulnerable to food insecurity. Priority 9: Acknowledgement of peace as a precursor to food security underlines the need for safe and secure access to means of production, especially arable land and harvestable waters. Actions within this priority strengthen emergency measures, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and disaster preparedness in Canada and abroad. 7

8 Priority 10: A monitoring system for food insecurity identifies the need for a comprehensive set of agreed-upon indicators to determine the nature, extent and evolution of food insecurity, both to develop appropriate responses and to monitor their effectiveness. This Plan provides for both government and civil society to work toward developing indicators for national and international systems and using them for monitoring purposes. For the purpose of this document, "civil society" refers to organizations and associations of people, formed for social or political purposes that are not created or mandated by governments. Included are nongovernmental organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, churches, grass-roots organizations, academic institutions, and business associations. 8

9 Part I: Understanding Food Security Defining Food Security Today, on a global basis, the world produces enough food to feed everyone. However, there are countries, regions within countries, villages within regions, households within villages, and individuals within households that are not able to meet their food needs. In 1996, countries at the World Food Summit agreed that: 'Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.' Food security requires anavailable and reliable food supply at all times. At the global and regional levels, the food supply can be affected by variations in the macroeconomic environment and regional climatic phenomena, while at the national level, interruptions, such as natural disasters or civil strife, can seriously disrupt food production, orderly marketing and the stability of the food supply. At the community and household level, poverty or gender inequality can influence the distribution and allocation of food affecting individual food security even when the food supply is adequate. Whether people grow their own food or buy it, their food security is essentially a matter of their access to food. The route to that access may be a dependable source of income or it may be the ability to acquire food through production. A dependable source of income is determined by access to a wide range of factors such as: job or business opportunities; health, education and other characteristics which increase employability and productivity; or the wherewithal to engage in barter or other acquisition methods. Production of food supplies for domestic consumption also depends on access to a mix of factors, including: natural resources, such as land; credit and agricultural inputs; health, education and training for the producer; social and political peace; and so on. When these routes to access are blocked, people are often forced to rely on social support programs. Individuals and households must have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food both in quantity and quality to meet their daily dietary requirements for a healthy and productive life. Food must also be culturally acceptable. For food security to be translated into adequate nutrition, people must also have access to adequate health services and to a healthy and safe environment, including a safe water supply, and they must have the capacity to provide appropriate caring practices for themselves and for the more vulnerable people in their family and their community. Parallels in Canadian and International Food Security Food security is multifaceted and is broader than being free from hunger. Food insecurity can be manifested in many ways. It can be temporary or chronic and its severity can vary 9

10 with age, status, gender, income, geographic location, ethnic or national affiliation and a host of other factors. In every country, regardless of its wealth or level of poverty, people can be food insecure. Despite immense differences in per capita incomes, standards of living, resource endowments and many other characteristics which separate countries - whether they are developing, industrialized or in transition from a planned to a market economy - many of the same basic dynamics are at work to create food insecurity. In examining Canada's Action Plan, it becomes apparent that there are important parallels between Canada's domestic and international food security concerns, although strategies to resolve them may vary between countries and regions. The notion of access to food as a basic human right is important for many people in the mobilization of political will, multi-sectoral commitment and public support. The question of access also revolves around issues of poverty and social justice. It is the poorest and most vulnerable members of society - the people with no voice - who are the most likely to be food insecure and the most powerless to change their circumstances. All countries must make special efforts to reach these populations, but efforts to improve their situations must be sustainable. "Band-aid" measures, whether they be food banks or emergency food aid, only provide temporary relief. Enduring solutions involve empowering the food-insecure to help themselves. Degradation of the natural resource base - land, water, air and genetic resources - impacts on the availability of food for everyone. The impact of unsustainable natural resource and land use practices by all sectors can be compounded by cross-border and long-term environmental threats, such as air and water pollution and climate change. Each country must implement agricultural and rural development policies and encourage appropriate investment to support those communities and people in food producing areas. 10

11 Canadian Perspective on Food Security 11

12 Part II: Domestic Actions Commitment One: An Enabling Environment 'We will ensure an enabling political, social and economic environment designed to create the best conditions for the eradication of poverty and for durable peace, based on full and equal participation of women and men, which is most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for all.' World Food Summit Good Governance Canadians are fortunate to live in a country where peace, democracy and human rights are generally enjoyed and respected. Mechanisms have been established to ensure protection of civil and human rights, and a strong and independent mass media facilitates free discussion of public issues. The national social safety net of income support, essential social services and human resource development helps people to meet their basic needs and provides them with opportunities to improve their circumstances. Careful economic stewardship provides the government with the necessary resources to support these programs while facilitating general economic growth. Canada's traditional values of broad-based economic growth and social justice are essential underpinnings for food security. These values have an important role to play in current restructuring and reform initiatives, such as those associated with Setting the Stage for the Next Century: The Federal Plan for Gender Equality. Through this Plan, the federal government is performing a gender-based analysis of federal policies and legislation, which will help remove barriers and take women's gender-based concerns into account in a wide range of areas, including those which impact on food security. Civil society plays an important role in social, political and economic reform, through public education, advocacy and participation in public policy formulation. The efforts of civil society, together with information and awareness-raising programs by all levels of government, are essential in ensuring public engagement on issues related to food security. 12

13 Participation: an essential ingredient in attaining food security The Government of Canada is implementing Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan. It is working with Aboriginal organizations and communities to develop effective, legitimate and accountable Aboriginal self-government and increase their participation in the design and delivery of programs affecting their lives and communities. This includes initiatives for improving community infrastructure on reserves, research and development in health and safety issues and access to safe traditional foods. Civil society-business partnerships The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has acted as an intermediary in helping to bring together the organizers of FoodShare Metro Toronto with representatives of the agriculture and food sectors in Ontario, to discuss ways to enhance food security in Ontario. This approach has received the support of other civil society and industry groups and may set the stage for discussion and creation of new partnerships Actions Undertake a major increase in efforts to educate Canadians about food security issues and to support initiatives geared toward enhanced involvement of citizens in achieving community food security. (All partners) Encourage dialogue on food security issues that will translate to policy reflection and change, based on public education, sound research and open and participatory governance, in order to engage all sectors of the population and ensure that the needs and priorities of all are represented. (All partners) The Right to Food The right to food was identified as an important element for food security at the World Food Summit. Internationally, the concept and its implications are still being defined and Canada is part of that process. Civil society feels that there is much that can be done in Canada to clarify its meaning and determine how to respect, protect and fulfill that right. Public education and awareness will play an important role in this process. This will help define the roles and responsibilities of governments, human rights bodies, civil society organizations and individuals in implementing the right to food. Actions Contribute to clarifying the content of the right to adequate food, as stated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (Federal government, civil society) Engage in domestic campaigns to promote the right to adequate food and the International Code of Conduct on the Human Right to Adequate Food. (Civil society) 13

14 Commitment Two: Access to Food 'We will implement policies aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality and improving physical and economic access by all, at all times, to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and its effective utilization.' Poverty and Food Insecurity World Food Summit The vast majority of Canadians are food secure; however, some groups of people may be more at risk to food insecurity than others, as shown in a number of studies on food bank use, poverty and dietary intake. While certain studies have identified a level of vulnerability, they do not provide an accurate and comprehensive national measure of food insecurity. What is known is that poverty is one of several factors which impede access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. There are vulnerable people with low incomes who cannot meet their food requirements without compromising other basic needs, such as shelter. Those groups most likely to be affected by low incomes in Canada include Aboriginal people, single mothers and their children, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants and those who have not completed high school. Vulnerability to food insecurity exists when people find themselves without a secure or adequate income, are unemployed, or have limited education. This can be compounded by difficulties in accessing appropriate social services, particularly among the aged and people with physical or mental disabilities, or with acute or chronic illness. This is especially true for the homeless or socially isolated who are more difficult to reach. Canada's social programs, which are administered by all levels of government, are designed to provide income support, help vulnerable people fulfill their basic needs, and provide a basic level of services, such as health care, to all Canadians. In recent years, governments' efforts to reduce their debts and improve their financial situations have obliged them to re-examine programs and better target vulnerable groups. While growth has returned to the Canadian economy, there are still some people who are significantly poorer than others. In order to help them, governments must follow a balanced approach of social investments and prudent financial management. This restructuring has direct implications for poverty reduction and social justice, and, by extension, for food security. Continuing to help Canadians in this regard means ensuring adequate social investments, facilitating the effective use of limited resources and engaging all concerned, especially the most vulnerable, in the decision-making process. A key challenge is to ensure that all Canadians have access to essential services no matter where they live in Canada. 14

15 In 1981, Canadian charities began setting up food banks as a temporary measure to help people deal with emergencies. From 1989 to 1997, the use of food banks in Canada doubled. The pressure on food banks to deliver other kinds of social services has also increased well beyond their capacity to deal with them. Other services, run mainly by civil society organizations, occasionally with support from provincial/territorial or municipal governments, include community kitchens and gardens, food-buying clubs, and school-based breakfast and lunch programs. These services were also never intended to be long-term solutions, and food banks and other community-based initiatives are now looking to the larger environment for answers. A recent study on poverty in Canada Canada's National Council of Welfare (NCW) released a poverty profile in the spring of Based on Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs)*, the profile painted a picture of increasing poverty for some sections of the population, despite general economic recovery. Incomes of the poorest 20% of Canadians dropped in the period. The NCW found that in 1996, the "national poverty rate" was 17.6%, rising from 17.4% in 1995 and from 13.6% in The hardest hit were singleparent families in women-headed households with children under the age of % of this group fell below the NCW poverty line. Within this group, those most affected were single mothers under the age of 25, of which 91.3% fell below the line. The percentage of Canadian children who slipped below the NCW poverty line increased from 20.5% in 1995 to 20.9% in * Although Statistics Canada's low income cut-offs are commonly referred to as official poverty lines, they have no officially recognized status nor does Statistics Canada promote their use as poverty lines. Not all individuals and families below this statistical level are food insecure. Food security in Quebec In order to address social inequality and poverty, the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec, together with the regional boards, is planning to implement a set of strategies and actions that contribute to the accessibility of sufficient, nourishing, acceptable and reasonably priced food to the population of Quebec, at all times and in full respect of their dignity. These actions and strategies go beyond emergency food assistance and contribute to the social development of a community, by supporting the development of autonomy, the responsibility of persons and the promotion of a new solidarity that enables people to improve their living conditions. Financial support is given to each region to encourage the development of pilot projects, such as collective kitchens, food cooperatives, and food buying groups with farmers and others. In addition, a research project evaluating the impact of these recent interventions in food security is also under way. Source: Poverty Profile 1996: A Report by the National Council of Welfare, Spring, 1998 Food banks - an indicator of food insecurity The use of food banks in Canada has roughly doubled in the last decade, according to the Canadian Association of Food Banks*. A recent study released in 1998 by the University of Toronto** investigated the food security and nutritional vulnerability of a subgroup of food bank users in Toronto, women with children. The study found that the household incomes of 90% of the women participating in the study were less than 2/3 of Statistics Canada's Low-Income Cut-Offs (LICOs). Over 93% of respondents reported some degree 15

16 of food insecurity over the past year, despite their efforts to supplement their food supplies by occasional use of food banks or to increase their disposable income by discontinuing telephone services or delaying bill payments. In addition to their own hunger, more than 25% of the women also reported that their children had gone hungry during the previous month. Further, a significant proportion of the women appeared to have very low dietary intakes of iron, magnesium, vitamin A, folate, protein or zinc. * Hunger Count 1997, Canadian Association of Food Banks ** funded by Health Canada through the National Health Research and Development Program Actions Include the participation of civil society in the current evolution of Canada's social security system. (All levels of government) In partnership with the provinces and territories, help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty and promote attachment to the work force through the National Child Benefit System, an initiative that involves improved income benefits, programs and services to families. (HRDC, provincial and territorial departments responsible for social services) Increase opportunities for labour force participation of persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people. (HRDC) Through all provinces and territories, increase the employability of young people through targeted scholarships and job creation programs. (All partners) Access to Safe and Nutritious Food In Canada, the food supply provides safe and nutritious food at both the retail and food service levels. Systems are in place to ensure that policies governing food production, composition (including addition of vitamins and minerals), preparation and labeling promote the availability of safe foods that can support healthy eating to maintain and improve the health of Canadians. Globalization of trade and new technologies have given consumers more choices for their food baskets and has introduced them to new and exotic foods; however, the safety of food imports requires monitoring. Emerging food-borne pathogens have also become concerns and require vigilance. High levels of contaminants are threatening the safety of some traditional Aboriginal food sources, particularly in the Arctic region. This situation has potentially serious consequences for Inuit communities. New technologies in food production and processing, such as biotechnology, have health and safety implications and undergo continuous evaluation. Systems are in place to assess the safety of food produced by new technologies. Public apprehensions about the use of 16

17 biotechnology in food production, including issues of product safety, quality and choice, need to be addressed through a variety of approaches, including active dialogue with consumers. Actions Maintain high standards of food safety and nutrition, taking into consideration new technologies of food processing and production such as biotechnology and genetic engineering. (HC, CFIA) Support food safety education initiatives through multi-sectoral partnerships, such as the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education. (HC, CFIA, private sector, civil society, including consumer organizations) Conduct appropriate surveillance programs to assess the need for new standards or risk management activities. (HC) Ensure the safety of domestic foods and imports and invest in the development of new methodologies, both to detect and monitor food-borne pathogens and chemical contaminants and to reduce contamination of foods during production or processing. (HC, CFIA) Review the findings of the Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report (CACAR) in relation to threats to Inuit traditional food sources and find ways to implement the recommendations. (Aboriginal communities and organizations, federal, provincial and territorial governments, the academic community and the private sector, i.e., natural resource industries). Reinforcing Healthy Eating Practices The Canadian food supply can provide foods with nutritional characteristics that support healthy eating. An environment also needs to be created to enable Canadians - whether in households, institutions, or private sector venues, such as stores and restaurants - to make informed choices for healthy eating. A key strategy in Canada's national nutrition plan (see box) to strengthen healthy eating practices involves: community-based services that include nutrition; schools that provide age-appropriate nutrition education; programs that emphasize practical skill development in reinforcing positive food choices; media and advertising which disseminate consistent, accurate messages; and food that is labeled to facilitate knowledgeable choice. One of the key actions identified in Canada's nutrition plan is the promotion and protection of breastfeeding. Additional measures need to be taken to support the right of women to breastfeed and the right of infants to be breastfed. For the majority of infants, breastfeeding is the most important guarantee of food security. It ensures a safe, secure and nutritionally complete food source. Active support from all sectors of society will increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, will lead to more public institutions 17

18 being recognized as baby-friendly and will improve the food security, nutrition, health and development of our infants. Currently in Canada, governments and other partners are working to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (see page 33 for details) with a focus on education and health promotion. Nutrition for Health: An Agenda for Action (1996) Canada's nutrition plan identifies four strategies to promote health: reinforcing healthy eating practices, supporting nutritionally vulnerable populations, enhancing the availability of foods that support healthy eating, and supporting nutrition research. Some of its key actions relevant to food security include working with social policy decision makers to address the needs of vulnerable people, developing a data base to better define the vulnerable populations and to better understand their food and nutrition issues, monitoring the cost of a nutritious food basket and using this information in the development of education programs and income support initiatives, and collaborating intersectorally to ensure food safety. Actions Implement actions in Nutrition for Health: An Agenda for Action (1996), including: work to include and maintain nutrition services as part of comprehensive health services in both existing and evolving community-based and home-care settings; improve the usefulness of nutrition labeling, increase its availability and broaden public education on its use; work with the food services sector and publicly funded organizations such as schools, hospitals and government agencies to promote the increased availability of foods that support healthy eating. (All levels of government, civil society, private sector) Breastfeeding Initiatives Through the Baby-Friendly Initiative, hospitals and maternity services adopt practices which protect breastfeeding, educate pregnant and lactating women about the benefits of breastfeeding, train health staff to protect and support the practice, and refer mothers to support groups as part of normal hospital routine. The Government of New Brunswick has embarked on a major program promoting breastfeeding in the public education system and strongly emphasizes it in the curriculum for all health professionals and health-related organizations. These and other supportive practices are promoted by the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada (BCC), a broad coalition of representatives of national health and professional associations, individuals and experts. The BCC aims to establish breastfeeding as the cultural norm for infant feeding in Canada. Implement the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. (All levels of government, private sector, civil society and coalitions, e.g., the BCC) Support the implementation of the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)/Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) in Canada, toward creating a global breastfeedingfriendly environment. (All levels of government, private sector, civil society and coalitions, e.g., the BCC) Work toward employment conditions for women that are supportive of breastfeeding. (All levels of government, private sector, civil society and coalitions, e.g., the BCC) 18

19 Traditional Food Acquisition by Aboriginal Communities Many Aboriginal people in Canada, particularly in remote communities, experience all or most aspects of food insecurity due to low incomes, safety risks due to pollutants in the traditional food supply, quality problems associated with inappropriate shipping, handling and home preparation of commercial foods, and disruptions to access caused by interruptions in shipping or changes in animal migratory patterns. The cost of commercial food is high, as is the cost of supplies for fishing and hunting. The transition from a hunter-gatherer society to a cash-based society presents unique challenges to Aboriginal communities. More and more Aboriginal people are turning to commercial foods, which are more expensive and not always as nutrient-dense as traditional foods. A greater understanding of a range of issues - the role of commercial versus traditional foods, acquisition practices (which may include hunting, fishing and gathering, trade, barter and sharing), the contribution of traditional foods to health, and measures required to ensure the sustainable, safe use of food resources - is necessary for the food security and ultimately to the underlying values of many Aboriginal communities. The challenge in achieving food security is to wisely manage this changing food system in such a way as to reap the benefits from the best of both the traditional and the commercial food systems. Actions Explore ways to share information regarding access issues for traditional and commercial food supplies, to identify gaps in information needed by key partners and to make linkages with work under way. (Aboriginal communities and organizations, federal, provincial and territorial governments, academic community, private sector, e.g. natural resource industries) Work together to build the dimension of food security and traditional food access into existing policies and activities that affect traditional food acquisition; for example, the promotion of food security in sustainable development activities and health promotion. (DIAND and its partners) Fulfill commitments that are related to the safety and acquisition of traditional foods identified in current federal initiatives, such as Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan and the Sustainable Development Strategies of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Health Canada. (DIAND, HC and their partners) Continue to encourage Aboriginal participation in the fishery sector through the Allocation Transfer Program (ATP), a component of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS), which facilitates the voluntary retirement of commercial licences and issues new ones to eligible Aboriginal groups and organizations in a manner that does not add to the existing effort on the resource. (DFO). 19

20 Monitoring System for Food Insecurity In Canada, estimates of the nature, extent, distribution and evolution of food insecurity are extremely varied and there is no broad consensus around them. It is therefore difficult to gain the necessary support for clear actions. There is a need for a common understanding of the issues and an agreed-upon set of indicators for food insecurity. Many individual indicators now exist but they measure different facets of the problem rather than giving a comprehensive national picture. This is an excellent example of an area where intersectoral cooperation can result in a recognized and valid tool that is generally accepted and can be used to monitor the situation. The results of such monitoring and their regular publication would provide solid information to guide food security actions in both policy and programming. They would also enhance public awareness of the issue. Causes and consequences of food insecurity in Canada: One organization's exploration There are a number of studies under way which contribute to understanding food insecurity in Canada. For example, the department of Human Resources Development Canada has devised a model that examines the relationships among conditions of food insecurity, nutrition insecurity and food poverty. It also looks at those at risk of such conditions and the consequences for them. The survey will study the severity and duration of concern that households experience worrying about lack of food, compromising quality and eating insufficient quantity. Information to determine the causes of food insecurity, and to determine periodicity and coping strategies, will also be collected. Results are expected in the year Source: Lack of Food Security in Canada, Applied Research Branch, Human Resources Development Canada. Actions Agree upon a set of domestic food insecurity indicators that can be used to assess the extent and distribution of food insecurity across the country. (Federal, provincial and territorial governments, civil society) Establish a baseline of information on food insecurity indicators, including indicators of nutritional status; provide ongoing monitoring; and ensure resulting information is published regularly, incorporated into future policy and programming, and contributes to international monitoring efforts. (Federal, provincial and territorial governments, civil society) 20

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