Our food system in Canada faces a wide range of challenges. Unhealthy diets claim more lives than any other cause of death and too many residents in low-income communities have difficulty accessing nutritious food or even enough food.
Our food system employs more Canadians than any other sector, yet too many are not paid a livable wage. So much of the power in the food system is held at the retail and distributor levels, and too small a percentage of our food dollars make it to the people who produce our food. The typical farmer captures less than 20% of the food dollars and the economics of farming are so challenging that young people cannot be enticed into this essential industry. As a result, the average age of farmers is 55 years old.
In addition, the food system is responsible for up to 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is because conventional agriculture methods are energy intensive and cause the release of CO2 from the soil. Products are shipped an average of 2500kms, leading to more greenhouse gas emissions and grocery stores are very energy intensive, with open coolers and open freezers and products displayed under bright lights.
Fortunately, these trends are changing. Many people now realize that food produced and consumed locally is much fresher, reduces transport-related climate change impacts, creates jobs, and keeps more dollars circulating in the local economy. The challenge is to find ways to better support local food entrepreneurs and allow them to scale so that a much higher percentage of our diets can be sourced locally from producers that are dedicated to providing wholesome, nutrient-rich foods that are accessible by everyone.
What are your thoughts on the underlying causes of our food system challenges? You can respond in the comment section below.