He’s just secured a new temporary home for his kids, but English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver wants Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau to start thinking hard about their nutritional needs and the eating habits of the rest of the country’s kids.
Oliver, who is in Toronto to promote his new book “Everyday Super Food”, said Canada is lacking any kind of strategy when it comes to getting healthy food for children, something he thinks the country’s notably fit PM is a natural to take on.
“You’re in a really exciting time because you’ve got a new prime minister and that means hope and possibility, but no one’s talking about what the strategy is for child health in this country,” said Oliver.
Oliver, who may or may not be an expert in Canadian politics, happens to be right about food in Canada. We currently have no national food strategy, although the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, an organization that represents 200,000 farmers, wants one. The organization, pointing to the farm-to-table movement as proof that Canadians are interested in diving deeper into food and food issues, has produced a white paper that says a national strategy on food should trump the political cycle.
“Canada does not currently have a long-term vision for our food system,” says the report. “Agricultural and agri-food policy is developed within five-year windows. The policies therefore tend to address immediate needs and may not always include provisions for the longer-term vision. As is often said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”.
Like many modern, industrialized nations, Canada deals with the problems that too much food causes as well as too little. But food insecurity does exist here, in fact it may be rampant. A 2012 study called “Household Food Insecurity in Canada” found that four million Canadians, including 1.15-million children, live in households that struggled to afford food.
One of the arguments for government intervention into nutrition is the fact that healthy food is fast becoming more expensive than unhealthy food. A 2013 study from researchers at Harvard University that was published in The British Medical Journal found that eating a healthy diet costs about $1.50 more a day.
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Amanda Sheedy, program manager at Food Secure Canada says a modern program must simultaneously focus on food insecurity and health.
“[Canadians] still haven’t managed to come up with a comprehensive way to address the growing obesity crisis, and we think that school food programs are a great way to tackle it,” she told The Tyee recently.
But in an environment in which the World Health Organization just confused the entire world with their opinions on meat, Oliver admits the problem is not an easy one to solve.
“There’s no golden bullet,” he says. “There’s no one thing that fixes everything or has everything. Even things that are very, very good and nutrient dense are not complete in everything you need, so it’s really about the context of bringing a cluster of various things together to make a wicked dish,” said Oliver.
There’s every reason to be suspicious about Jamie Oliver’s motives. He is the world’s richest chef, having made hundreds of millions of dollars in the food business from scores of restaurants, television shows, cookbooks, and a magazine. He sells spices and rubs and kitchenware and sauces and oils and vinegars and sustainable frozen fish.
But that doesn’t mean his intentions aren’t good and sensible. Over some farm fresh eggs, organic juice and steel cut oats at Rideau Cottage, Justin Trudeau should sit and listen to what Oliver has to say about a national nutrition program for Canada. After all, it’s hard to conjure another issue affecting four million Canadians that isn’t worth a meeting.
Below: Jamie Oliver’s TED Award speech…