U of G Part of National Project to Improve Food System’s Response to Crisis

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From the earliest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been questions and concerns around our food system.

Canadians have seen a steady stream of stories about empty grocery store shelves, rising food bank use, excess food being dumped, fields left unplanted because of a lack of temporary foreign workers and meat packing plants becoming disease hot spots.

Improving our food system’s response to future crises is the focus of a new national project launched by the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute (AFI) and the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI).

“Growing Stronger” will connect all players within Canada’s food system through an online portal and a series of virtual consultations over the summer and into the fall.

This nationwide dialogue will result in policy recommendations, questions for future research projects and the creation of a learning network for participants.

Draft conclusions and recommendations will be debated at the 2020 Arrell Food Summit before being presented in their final form in 2021 at the CAPI Big Solutions Forum.

“In the post-COVID-19 world, seeking answers to the key question of how to build a resilient Canadian agri-food system will become more urgent than ever, as this crisis brings to light where we successfully adapted as well as revealing hidden vulnerabilities in the Canadian agri-food system,” said Prof. Evan Fraser, director of the AFI.

Fraser will co-chair the project along with Deb Stark, former deputy minister of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and a board member of both CAPI and U of G, and Don Buckingham, president and CEO of CAPI.

“What went well? What did not? Where do we go from here? If we can answer these questions, Canada’s food system will be even stronger, and that’s better for us all,” said Stark.

“Whether you are a producer, processor or retailer, a member of an Indigenous community or a migrant farm worker, an urban consumer with job security or someone who depends on a food bank, we’d like your advice on the food system,” said Buckingham. “We must listen and learn what rural, urban and remote communities faced during the lockdown and then use these learnings to inform our future policy directions for greater sustainability and resilience for Canada’s food system.”