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Canada’s Food Freedom Day: February 9, 2019

By Nicole Lamers, Public Trust Specialist

February 2019

Do you ever sit and think about the cost of food, in Canada or around the world? Maybe you’re like me and the trips to the grocery store are just a blur. You haven’t been able to separate groceries from Kleenex boxes, shampoo, or diapers and so you don’t know exactly what percentage of your income is spent on food. If that’s the case, you are in luck. Every year the Canadian Federation of Agriculture examines Statistics Canada data on the average Canadian income and yearly food expenditure to determine how much of our income is spent on food. From this data they calculate a date, February 9 this year, to let us know at what point in the year we have earned enough income to cover our yearly food expenses. Every year the date is different, which gives us a better idea of the changing ability of the average household in Canada to pay for their food purchases.

The cost of ingredients for a plate of food
Infographic produced for the World Food Programme by Myriad Editions

The cost of food is on the mind of many Canadians. The 2018 survey from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity shares that 67 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the rising costs of food. These concerns are real and for many people, worrying about food undoubtedly causes much stress. Despite these realities, we live in a country where we can celebrate Food Freedom Day as early as February 9. Canada has some of the safest, nutritious and affordable food in the world.

However, Food Freedom Day isn’t universal for all Canadians. This date is based on an average Canadian income and an average food bill. For a family living in Northern Canada or a single parent, their personal Food Freedom Day might be weeks away. Saskatchewan producers, researchers and agri-businesses are increasingly working to make improvements to lower the cost of food for all Canadians and keep food affordable.

If we calculate the price of an ordinary plate of food and express it as a percentage of average daily income, we find that the price of food in Canada compares favourably to many other nations. Canadians spent 11 per cent of their income on food in 2018. The World Food Programme indicates that in India they spent 4.5 per cent, and in South Sudan: 155 per cent. The cost of food in some countries outweighs their average income level. While this doesn’t negate the struggle some Canadians feel about the cost of food in Canada, it does give us reason for hope. Hope that next year Food Freedom Day will come earlier in the year, signalling that Canadian farmers, researchers and businesses are still committed to producing quality food for Canadians at all income levels.

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