National Newswatch

Affordability and sustainability are wide-spread concerns, poll says.


Ottawa—While Canadians are optimistic about having enough food during the pandemic, they are worried about being able to afford it because half have experienced an income drop, says a poll conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).

Its 2020 Public Trust Research Report showed plenty of praise for the food system’s dependability during the pandemic, with nearly nine in ten confident the food system will ensure the availability of healthy food even with the exceptional pressure and public concern due to the pandemic.

“Canada’s food system stakeholders should be proud of their efforts throughout the pandemic that has ensured Canadians uninterrupted access to healthy, Canadian-grown food,” said CCFI President and CEO John Jamieson.  The public appreciation “presents our industry with an extraordinary opportunity to connect with consumers and highlight the potential for the agrifood system to lead economic recovery in Canada.”

The poll also found that the sustainability is not just a trend but a requirement. “Sustainable food means many things to many people, but for almost half of Canadians, it refers to food options and production practices that address climate change and have a positive impact on the environment.”

Of the nearly 3,000 people sampled, “the proportion of Canadians who feel that Canada’s food system is headed in the right direction has reached a five-year high; 47 per cent are confident about the overall direction of the food system.”

CCFI said the food system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is highly praised by Canadians. Despite critics and the pandemic “Canadians are confident in and optimistic about the food they eat and those who produce it. Canada’s food system stakeholders should be very proud of their efforts to ensure Canadians have uninterrupted access to healthy food.”

The poll found that concern about the economy, the federal deficit, and unemployment have seen significant jumps. The pandemic “has highlighted this struggle with most Canadians indicating they have less money to spend on food due to the pandemic.

As for sustainability, “Canadians desire concrete actions to ensure a sustainable food system, not just lip service on the issue. Consumers are demonstrating that sustainability in food is increasingly non-negotiable: a majority say they actively seek out food items that use less packaging or have a minimal environmental impact. “Demand for environmentally friendly food options will only continue to grow. Younger Canadians are more likely to seek out these items and as their purchasing power increases with age, so too will the demand for these options.”

Sustainability is becoming “a requirement to be a trusted and successful food system player,” the report said. That means that food suppliers must clearly demonstrate their commitment “to environmental sustainability in food and agriculture as well as improving food packaging. When it comes to sustainability, do not get left behind!”

Responsibility for reducing food waste is highest at home and in grocery stores and restaurants where Canadians can see it firsthand, the report said. “The food system can help empower consumers to reduce the amount of food wasted through innovative approaches such as offering smaller, less expensive portions at restaurants or providing food storage tips at grocery stores.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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