By Erika Bachmann, Policy Analyst, Environment and Resource Policy Unit, Policy Branch
Food Freedom Day, coined by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, is the day in the calendar year when the average Canadian household has earned enough to pay their food bill for the year. This year, it falls on February 8.
In 2019, the average Canadian household is expected to have spent 10.9 per cent of their disposable income on food. How does this compare to the rest of the world?
In a 2018 report, the United States Department of Agriculture compared consumer expenditures on food across selected countries, with the United States at the top of the list (in terms of least amount of consumer expenditures spent on food) and Canada close behind in fifth place. While the United States spends about 6.4 per cent of its income on food, at the other end of the scale, in countries like Kenya and Nigeria, over half of average household expenditures are spent on food.
I spent some time in a village in northwest Benin, West Africa, doing research on agricultural systems. Agricultural labour in this region was back-breaking and yielded little results, relative to Canadian standards. Smallholder farmers hacked at dry earth with hand tools, barely making a living in the poor soil. However, food was affordable and available for me, because of my income. I could afford not only the food, but also the propane to cook it and the ability to have it stored safely. Through this experience, I learned firsthand that food security means more than just food production; it means being able to have physical and economic access to food and the ability to prepare and store it properly.
So what is Canada's, and specifically the agriculture sector's, contribution to food security? A significant part of it is the efficient production of safe, high-quality food that is exported around the world. Right here in Saskatchewan, we have the Global Institute for Food Security, whose mission is to "work with partners to discover, develop and deliver innovative solutions for the production of globally sustainable food." Saskatchewan also helps to fund vital research initiatives on improving drought tolerance, which allows producers to sustain yields during dry years. We also fund projects that work to enhance soil health, which enables producers to maintain the health of their land while increasing productivity. Saskatchewan, in partnership with the federal government, recently announced $11 million in funding for crop-related research projects and $8 million in funding for livestock research. Advancements in research help us to become more sustainable and continue to provide healthy food, a critical component of this thriving agricultural research community we have in the province.
So, on Food Freedom Day and every day, let's celebrate food and the advancements happening in modern agriculture that help make what we eat safe, accessible and affordable.