If you were to share a meal with a political candidate running for office, what would be your focus of conversation?
Food Secure Canada (FSC) has recently launched the Eat, Think, Vote campaign, geared to engage Canadians in a conversation with candidates about our food system.
“The idea is we will invite candidates from all political parties, to sit down and enjoy a community-cooked meal,” said Diana Bronson, executive director of Food Secure Canada. “That meal may be a beautiful organic feast from local farms or it might be Kraft Dinner, because that is what is available at the food bank today.
“Share a meal and have a discussion about our most urgent food-related issues, and how we can formulate a food policy for Canada that will make our food system more equitable, sustainable, and healthy.”
FSC hopes the campaign will stir up some good conversations, aid in developing stronger relationships with soon-to-be elected officials and, ultimately, see the creation and implementation of a national food policy.
“Our food system right now is broken. We have four million people in this country who are hungry. We have a crisis of succession in farming. We are seeing increases in food-related health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease and we have an absolute crisis in the North of food insecurity,” said Bronson. “These are all things that good public policy can fix. With this campaign we are trying to shine the light on some of the solutions that we see.”
FSC launched the Eat, Think, Vote campaign on June 29. Along with the ultimate goal of a national food policy, the organization has outlined four focus points — healthy food in schools, affordable food in northern communities, eliminating hunger and support for new farmers.
“Our mission is partly to support the work of farmers and increase an understanding amongst urban Canadians about where their food comes from and the hard work that goes into making it, as well as the need to respect the land, ecosystems and people who are involved in creating good, healthy food,” said Bronson.
FSC says more than half of the Canadian farming population is over the age of 55 and 80 per cent of active farmers are looking to retire in the next 10 years.
“There are young farmers who want to farm and take on that challenge, but they can’t access the land, the capital or the training that they need in order to become efficient. As a result, we are facing a succession crisis,” said Bronson.
The Eat, Think, Vote campaign is calling for the creation of joint federal-provincial legislation to prohibit foreign ownership and limit acquisition of land by private investment funds, to increase Farm Credit Canada’s mandate to develop low-interest loans and small grants for new and aspiring farmers, as well as the development of more affordable training, support, consultation and extension services.
“We have built a system in the postwar period where we have seen a steady decline in the number of farms and an increase in debt and stress levels for farmers. I think there is a lot of room to have more diversity in our farming sector and certainly more support,” said Bronson.
The campaign website offers a petition in support of the initiative, as well as the ability to sign up to host or join an Eat, Think, Vote event.
“I would invite farmers, more than any other community, to be involved in this campaign and consider hosting an Eat, Think, Vote event on the farm, where they can invite, not only their neighbours but also their candidates for office to discuss some of the things they would like to see,” said Bronson.
For more information on the campaign or to host an event in your community, visit the Food Secure Canada website.