Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning, members.
I would like to acknowledge that I am joining you this morning from Ottawa, the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today as you resume your study on this important subject. I am pleased to be joined by John Fox, who is the director general from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's programs branch.
I will speak briefly about Canada's new food policy and then describe Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's recent programs and activities that are helping to support food security, including in northern communities.
In June 2019, following extensive consultations, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced the first-ever food policy for Canada, our road map for a healthier and more sustainable food system. It included a vision for all people in Canada to have access to sufficient amounts of safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food and to support a food system that is resilient and innovative, sustains our environment and supports our economy.
Food security was indeed a critical issue that was identified during the food policy consultations, and it was highlighted when the food policy was launched.
I will now outline the activities that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is undertaking to help address food security issues, including those in northern communities.
The first is the local food infrastructure fund, which was first announced in budget 2019 and formally launched the following summer. The fund is a five-year, $50-million initiative. The objective of the fund is to strengthen food systems in Canada and to facilitate access to safe and nutritious food for at-risk populations. To date, the fund has supported some 13 projects in the territories, involving more than $250,000. It has also approved 282 projects that identified indigenous peoples as one of the beneficiaries of the project.
In addition, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's science and technology branch is working with indigenous communities, stakeholders and partners in the north, including Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. For example, a partnership is under way with the Gjoa Haven community in Nunavut, along with the Arctic Research Foundation, the National Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency, on a green-energy-powered food production research unit.
In addition to these measures, the government has taken action to address the significant challenges relating to food security that have arisen during the pandemic. In April 2020, the government announced up to $100 million in funding through the emergency food security fund for Canadian food banks and other national food rescue organizations to help improve access to food for people experiencing food security in Canada due to the pandemic.
To date, the emergency food security fund has provided up to $3.2 million in funding to 90 recipients in the territories. It has also provided $17.7 million in funding to 820 recipients supporting indigenous peoples. An additional $100 million in funding for the emergency food security fund was announced by the Prime Minister in October.
In addition, there is the surplus food rescue program, a $50-million initiative to help support Canada's food system—food processors, food producers and food distributors—to help ensure food availability for all Canadians. Funding was used to help manage and redirect existing food surpluses to organizations addressing food insecurity and to ensure that these surplus products were not wasted. The surplus food rescue program has provided support to 94 recipients in the territories.
In addition, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials have been meeting regularly with officials from other federal departments and agencies, provinces and territories, as well as with industry, civil society and indigenous partners throughout the pandemic to better understand regional and local challenges and to collectively address food security issues.
In closing, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will continue to implement the programs and activities announced last year as part of the food policy as well as the emergency measures announced during the pandemic to strengthen food systems in Canada in keeping with the food policy vision and to address urgent needs across the country, including those in northern communities.