While the agricultural and food sectors have faced unprecedented pressures this year, the supply chain has remained strong
This year has thrown its fair share of curveballs and has kept us on our toes. Fortunately, one thing that remains constant is the steady supply of food.
While some shelves and meat cases sat bare for a short period at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers still had a variety of food options to choose from at their local grocers. The food supply chain has consistently delivered through many production disruptions.
Agri-food industry stakeholders have worked hard to provide Canadians with fresh, high-quality food. And their efforts have not gone unnoticed, Canadian Centre for Food Integrity’s (CCFI’s) recent Trends in Trust & The Path Forward report shows.
CCFI is a national charity with a clear mandate as the service provider to help Canada’s food system earn trust through research, resources, dialogue and training.
Over the last five years, the organization has conducted annual public trust surveys that provide insight into the overall sentiment of how the public views Canada’s food system. The research also allows food system stakeholders to evaluate the next steps in building public trust. This year, the organization expanded its reach to nearly 3,000 Canadians.
Following response analyses, the organization pulled three significant highlights from its research: Confidence, food affordability and sustainability.
“Confidence in Canada’s food system is at an all-time high,” said Ashley Bruner, CCFI’s research coordinator.
Because of the agri-food industry’s response to COVID-19 challenges, “Canadians feel quite optimistic about their food supply. The proportion of people who think our food system is headed in the right direction increased
by 12 points (compared to) last year. Nearly half of respondents, at 47 per cent, now feel confident about the overall direction of our food sector.”
In addition, 87 per cent of “Canadians said they trust that the food system will ensure the availability of healthy food,” Bruner said.
“These results are something that (ag) stakeholders should be proud of (and know) that their efforts to ensure Canadians have uninterrupted access to healthy food has not gone unnoticed.”
Not surprisingly, reasonably priced food is next on the list of CCFI’s findings.
“Food affordability is top of mind for Canadians,” Bruner said.
This finding is a “reflection of the times we are living in. Canadians are more worried about fiscal issues than they were last year. We found that such topics as economy, federal deficit and unemployment have grown significantly in terms of the level of concern among Canadians.”
Indeed, a little over half of Canadians are concerned about food affordability, the survey found.
Canadians have ranked the cost of food as a top concern for the last five years.
“Although the cost of food is consistently a top-of-mind-issue, COVID-19 has really highlighted (that many) Canadians have less money to spend on food” compared to past years, Bruner said.
“Access to affordable, healthy food is a critical issue for Canadians and our food system needs to answer this concern by continuously highlighting what they do to address food affordability.”
“Sustainability is now a demand and more than just a buzzword,” Bruner said.
When asked what sustainable food meant to them, people “often associated (the term) with food products and production practices that address climate change, have positive impacts on the environment and are locally produced,” Bruner said.
Consumers “also desire concrete actions to ensure that food is sustainable. They are showing this sentiment through their purchasing power. Indeed, 55 per cent (of respondents) said they actively seek out food items that use less packaging and 47 per cent said that they try to buy food that has a minimal environmental impact.”
Moving forward, “ag stakeholders can help keep and continue to build public trust in the industry by being as transparent as possible”, Brunner said.
To help create dialogue with consumers and cultivate understanding and appreciation for food production, the industry should “share their stories and let people know what farmers do to ensure food is grown sustainability,” Bruner said.
About Farmwork to Feed Canada: Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.