A wild swerve into federal food policy

Today on the Wellness Almanac, Anna Helmer’s Creative Non-Fiction Column (so termed in order to avoid being sued), swerves wildly into federal food policy. If the government can’t shout this from the rooftops of the world, then it’s up to you, to whisper it, firmly, clearly, and loudly, to all your neighbours. Something is broken. And noone is going to fix it but us. ~ LR

Consider the following statement:

Today’s food environment makes it very difficult for Canadians to make healthy food choices.

I copied and pasted this from a Government of Canada website. I found it while digging for dirt on Canada’s new Food Policy. I heard about that because I attended an information session about it hosted by our very own MP, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones.


Photo by Joel Barde, Piquenewsmagazine.com

This statement is such an elegant summary of my own impressions of our food system, and one I tried to convey at PSG-MP’s meeting.

I had burdened myself at that meeting with the responsibility of explaining to the federal government that as far as I am concerned, Canada’s federally supported food system appears to be propping up the processed food industry, which is profitably busy churning out an endless stream of meat from abused animals, grains from abused soil, and chemicals posing as food. (A burden incidentally, I failed to adequately shoulder. Note to self: do not ever again squander the attentions of a federal MP. She was listening, I failed to articulate.)

No matter: when I found this statement, I realized that the government already knows.

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Based on that statement, I imagine this is what the government is saying:

Our population has lost dominion over what goes into our bellies, subsequently with more or less dire implications for our weight and our health. Simply put, we (the federal government) know that 150 calories of Coke, for example, is not the same as 150 calories of broccoli and cheese. One is widely and cheaply available, but really should not be consumed. At all. It’s that bad. But we (the government) cannot say that out loud, because the food environment (Coke) would freak.

And furthermore:

We (the government) understand processed foods like Coke are affordable, accessible and safe (in terms of sterility), but the amount and type of sugar, fat and sodium they contain make them very unhealthy. We (the government) would like to try and make home cooking and local production more appealing to you because food from those sources contain far less of those things. We hope that the formulation of a Food Policy will allow us to make this point without stirring up a hornet’s nest in the food processing industry. The science is clear and we could pass sensible legislation and tax the unhealthy choices, but we fear the food processing industry would implode and take our economy down with it. That’s how far down this rabbit hole we think we have sunk: our economy might be inextricably tied to people being able to eat as much as they can, for as little money as possible, and never mind the consequences.

I realize that this is a lot of assumption to pack into one little sentence that is, in truth, buried at the bottom of a huge page of writing, among many such wordy pages. This is where the statement can be found, by the way: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/food-nutrition/healthy-eating-strategy.html.

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 10.40.45 AM

The federal government is aware of the hurdles keeping people from eating well. But can they do anything about it?

I bring it to the attention of Wellness Almanac readers in case it’s a critical fracture in the dam holding back the truth about food. It’s nice to know that the government knows and can even articulate what’s going on with food. Regular people like me might like to have a little faith in the system.

Or it might be just a whole lot more blah blah blah. I get sucked in every time.

Anna Helmer has trouble boiling it all down into digestible nuggets.


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