Food service shutdowns challenge system

Diverse food system panel talks about COVID-19 effects

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The Canadian Club of Toronto recently held an online event for key players in the agriculture and food supply chain.

The May 7 event looked at key factors that affected the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Why it matters: Food is regarded as a critical sector and was one of the hardest hit industries. Many observers believe drastic change is needed.

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The meeting included Cathy Lennon, general manager of Ontario Federation of Agriculture; Garnet Lasby, president of Massily North America; Danielle Barran, president of McCain Foods Canada and was moderated by Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Those in attendance said the closing of the food service industry had been the biggest hit to the agri-food sector. Producers lost a market and grocery retailers faced exponential demand for products.

Massilly North America, a container and packaging supplier, is running beyond its capacity, said Lasby.

“When food service shut down, retail demand went up. If you can’t have pasta at East Side Mario’s, you’re likely going to buy pasta sauce at a grocery store and make your own pasta.”

The financial aid presented to the agriculture industry on May 5 to help the agri-food industry with these issues was well received but didn’t meet all the needs of the producers, organizations and companies.

“The Canadian Federation of Agriculture was on record with its ask of $2.6 billion, obviously the package was worth a tenth of that,” said Charlebois.

Lasby said it was a first step, “but I’m hoping that it’s one of many,” said Lasby.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the panel said the Canadian food industry must improve the issues exposed by the pandemic.

“That’s a feature I hope we see post-COVID as well, is that we have locally grown food and processed at home and we can focus on providing food for Canadians and also, around the world,” said Lennon.

The Canadian Club hosts meetings for its members where it addresses significant topics of interest. The food symposium was part of a series on COVID-19-related topics.

Watch for more extensive coverage of this event in the next Farmtario newspaper.

About the author

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Jennifer Glenney

Jennifer is a farm reporter who lives in Cayuga, Ontario.

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