May 10th, 2022 - Bill S-227, An Act to establish Food Day in Canada - Third Reading
Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading of Bill S-227, An Act to establish Food Day in Canada. I thank the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry for their due diligence on this very important bill. As I said in my second reading speech, I fully support Senator Black’s bill in establishing a food day in Canada. It is a great opportunity to share with Canadians the crucial role our local food sector plays in our everyday life. Whether it be fisheries, blueberries, apples, potatoes and more, they are a staple of our daily diets.
Colleagues, as you may recall in my second reading speech, I highlighted the cultural importance of local food. Please allow me to share with you some of the food initiatives from around the country in order to showcase how, as a society, we hold local food at high value.
In British Columbia, a clear-cut example is the Penticton Farmers’ Market in the Okanagan Valley. It is one of the most farm-to-city markets. Every vendor is required to make, bake or grow their products locally. They are part of a growing movement in B.C. that works to protect and enhance local and small-scale food systems. And I do have to mention the Granville Island Public Market, which serves as a local food market but also is a major tourist attraction.
As well, the farmers markets across the country are leading the way for local food security in our country. In Ontario alone, there are 180 member markets, and since 1991, Farmers’ Markets Ontario has been leading the way, advocating for markets with municipalities and potential funders to help ensure the health and sustainability of the markets and supporting the growth of farmers’ markets for the benefit of local farmers, local food and Ontario consumers.
Of course, every summer we see a host of festivals to celebrate food, such as Alberta on the Plate, the St-Albert Curd Festival in Ontario, the Grand Falls Regional Potato Festival in New Brunswick and so on. There are also important local food initiatives such as the Canadian Food Focus, an outreach initiative led by Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan. They host farm tours, community events, online activities, classes and seminars as well as share our Canadian food and farming stories, explore how food is grown and raised, share recipes and provide useful advice from experts to help people make confident food choices. Their goal is to improve food literacy and to build trust in Canadian food chains from farm to plate.
A concrete example I need to share, colleagues, is Little River Polyculture in Bathurst, New Brunswick. They are a locally owned microgreen polyculture that offers fresh products year-round to their community. They grow various greens for restaurants and residents: arugula, sunflower, peas, broccoli and the list goes on. Not only do they help in providing fresh and healthy products, but they recently set up the first hydroponic system at the local high school. The students are learning how to grow salad for their salad bar thanks to a local food initiative. Local food producers like Little River Polyculture become important social engineers for our communities.
The reason I am sharing the various markets and festivals, honourable senators, is to demonstrate that, with Bill S-227, these events won’t be happening separately from each other. Once a year, they will be linked through food day in Canada. We could maybe see further collaboration between various local and provincial food markets and festivals on the national level. Maybe there is a collaboration already that I am not aware of. But in a vast country like ours and with the social and cultural importance of food, they will all be celebrated jointly on one day.
Furthermore, before I finish, I do need to say a few words on the importance of food security. I trust food day in Canada will also be an opportunity to further the conversation on food security in our country and how local food can help us tackle the issue of hunger. In a country as plentiful as ours, we must strive to do better in reducing and eventually eliminating hunger. For example, according to Statistics Canada, in fall 2020, 9.6% of Canadians reported having experienced some food insecurity in their household in the prior 12 months. It is lower than the estimate of 12.6% from 2017-18, but I think almost 1 out of 10 Canadians reporting having experienced some food insecurity is still too high. Just here in Ottawa, the demand for food banks went up 20% in March 2022 compared to March 2021. That is significant, honourable senators, and it is important for a day like food day in Canada to celebrate local foods but also to recognize what more can be done to help those in need.
In a time when inflation is on the rise at the rate of 8.7% more for food purchased from stores on a year-over-year basis in March, everyone is feeling the tightening of the wallet due to inflation. Prices for dairy products and eggs rose 8.5% while butter grew at 16%, cheese at 10.4% and milk at 7.7%. Food day in Canada would be a great opportunity to have a conversation about food security in a time of rising inflation. I’m not an economist or a food policy specialist, but I am from a rural community, and in my experience, whenever a community supports itself through local food markets, the local farmers support the community. Everybody wins by supporting each other.
Honourable senators, as Senator Black said in his third reading speech, Bill S-227 is about people. It is an opportunity to bring people together to celebrate our local food, to show our appreciation to farmers and to say thank you. I support this bill and hope you will join me in supporting the establishment of a food day in Canada. Thank you.