Comment: Canadian food promotions shouldn’t be needed — but they are

Canadians enjoy a secure food system, but still have misgivings

Canadians are realizing in an unprecedented way the value of Canada’s food systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friends and family are regularly discussing where their food comes from, at least in my circles.

The desire to “shop local” has moved out of urban ‘hipsterville’ and into the mainstream, as folks across the country realize the importance of purchasing food coming from Canada.

Hand in hand with that realization is another lesson being learned by millions of people: that Canada’s food supply chain is pretty secure.

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Despite challenges — some of which are still ongoing — grocery store shelves have largely remained stocked.

Seeing this shift in my own circles made me think it was odd efforts are still being poured into ensuring the general public is aware of just how good we have it in Canada when it comes to food.

That’s the goal of a recent campaign launched by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).

The “It’s Good, Canada” campaign was created, according to its spiffy new website, to “celebrate the work of everyone involved in Canada’s food system and to show that our system is designed with a single purpose in mind: to ensure good-quality food makes its way to the plates of all Canadians and families around the world.”

Kudos to the folks behind this campaign for capitalizing on a ready-made teachable moment brought on by the pandemic, but it is a shame such a campaign is still needed.

Given the recent circumstances and strains supply chains have endured, you would think Canadians would give Canada’s food systems a bit more credit, and a willingness to support the industry.

But despite many Canadians realizing throughout the pandemic the strength and security of our food systems, it’s clear such a campaign is indeed needed.

A 2019 study from CCFI found only one in three Canadian consumers believe Canada’s food system is headed in the right direction – rising food costs and accessing affordable healthy food remain top concerns.

Perhaps the pandemic has shifted those sentiments in a more positive direction, but a campaign like “It’s Good, Canada” can only help.

What is still to be determined is how much this and other similar campaigns will have on improving public sentiments.

Meanwhile, the most notable – or at least, expensive – campaign promoting Canadian food is one being led by the federal government.

Ottawa is planning to spend between $1.5 million and $4 million a year, over five years, on a “Buy Canadian” promotional campaign that would aim to “better connect Canadians with, and instil pride in, Canada’s food system and its agriculture, food and seafood products.”

“The campaign should tell the story of Canada’s agri-food sector and reach audiences on an emotional level in order to instil pride and confidence in the country’s food systems,” reads one part of a contract notice posted by the federal government in January to find a company to design and launch the program.

But some within the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food hint that project is being delayed. There was some expectation it would launch this summer, but the search for a private company to execute the campaign, I’m told, is still ongoing.

There remains a smattering of regional campaigns promoting Canadian food, many of which are funded by provinces.

At a time when so many Canadians are waking up to the strength of Canada’s agri-food industry, it’s a shame such programs are still needed.

About the author

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D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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