Maple Leaf Foods and its president, Michael McCain, announced today that they are investing more than $12.5 million over the next five years to tackle food insecurity.
They hope to cut the rate in half by 2030, which would mean two million Canadians would no longer be challenged by food insecurity.
The company is donating $10 million to launch the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Insecurity; McCain is adding $2.5 of his own money for an endowment fund for the non-profit centre.
The company is also going to donate at least $1.5 million worth of food per year.
The centre will focus its attention on advocacy, innovation and learning.
“The Centre and Maple Leaf will support, engage and advocate for important policies that advance sustainable food security,” the company said in a news release.
“The Innovation Fund will invest in innovative food security initiatives based on dignity, empowerment and skill building that can potentially be scaled to increase their impact.”
It is estimated that one in six children and 4,000,000 Canadians face food insecurity, lacking stable access to affordable, nutritious and culturally-appropriate food.
"In a country of such wealth and abundance, it is a national shame that one out of every six children and four million people in Canada face food insecurity," said Michael McCain, who will be chairman of the centre.
"The Centre is the culmination of several years of stakeholder engagement to understand this complex issue and where Maple Leaf should direct our resources – people, products and financial – to make the greatest difference,” he said.
“It reflects a significant, sustained commitment to lend our voice, to advocate for change, and to invest in innovation that results in demonstrable improvements."
The company has picked the following people for the centre’s board of directors:
Professor Evan Fraser, director of the University of Guelph Food Institute and the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security;
Beth Hunter, Program Director at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, leading the Sustainable Food Systems initiative;
Professor Mustafa Koç, Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University, one of the founders of the Centre for Studies in Food Security, Food Secure Canada, and the Canadian Association for Food Studies;
Curtis Frank, senior vice-president for retail sales at Maple Leaf Foods;
Ms. Lynda Kuhn, senior vice-president for Sustainability and Public Affairs at Maple Leaf Foods, and
Rory McAlpine, senior vice president for Government and Industry Relations at Maple Leaf Foods.
The company says that despite bold and innovative work by some, food insecurity has persisted for the last decade and in some cases, such as Nunavut, has “substantially worsened” leaving almost half of households food insecure.
‘Results from a recent national survey show that more than 60 per cent of Canadians do not understand the meaning of "food insecurity" and fewer than one in five of Canadians are aware of the extent of the issue in this country,” the company says.
‘Impacting 12.5 per cent of the Canadian population, food insecurity is a pervasive and pressing national issue.
‘One in eight households face food insecurity and the prevalence is far greater in northern communities and among disadvantaged populations.
‘Income level is by far the strongest predictor of food security.”