Friday was Food Freedom Day

By Mark Wales,
President OFA

February 7 marks Food Freedom Day in Canada this year. That’s the date when the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay for their annual grocery bill, and it’s one week earlier than 2013.
Calculated by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), Food Freedom Day recognizes the abundance of food we enjoy as Canadians – and at a relatively low cost. According to a 2012 USDA study, Canadians rank third in the world for the lowest share of total household expenditures on food in the world, behind only the US and Britain. We’re pretty lucky to live in a country with such affordable food, while enjoying some of the highest production, environmental and food safety standards.
Food and our food system is on the minds and lips of Canadians more than ever. Canadians are asking where their food was produced? How far did it travel? Is there anything added to it?
The popularity of local food is growing and Canadian farmers are feeding this movement. When the Ontario government introduced a new Local Food Act in late 2013, it was great news for Ontario’s agri-food industry to ensure locally-produced foods are more readily available. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) urged the government to go one step further with the new act to include the concept of food literacy – the idea of helping consumers of all ages develop an understanding about food and nutrition so they can make better, healthier choices.
Increasing food literacy is also part of the CFA’s National Food Strategy, a collective vision for the future of Canadian food in the years to come. The National Food Strategy sets some specific ideas for how industry and governments could grow Canadian agriculture and improve the health of Canadians. It also includes principles that are easily adaptable to an Ontario-specific food strategy – something the Local Food Act can easily be part of. As farmers, we want Canadians to have a better understanding of their food choices while ensuring they have continued access to healthy food.
Food Freedom Day also serves as an annual reminder of the volume and variety of healthy, safe and affordable food we enjoy having access to. With more than 200 different agricultural crops grown in Ontario, our province is the most diverse food-producing region in Canada. That’s something to celebrate every day. Food is part of our social fabric and families can experience this everyday – by choosing ingredients and creating meals to appreciating the health benefits that come from our nutritious choices.
As we recognize Food Freedom Day in Canada – and the good fortune we enjoy with such an abundant supply of food – the OFA recognizes the important role Canadian farmers play in feeding our nation.