By Connor Lynch
GUELPH — When your belly is full, you have many problems. When it’s empty, you only have one.
Sage words that had a big impact on consumer confidence and priorities in our food system, according to the latest research from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. The public-trust think-tank has been doing annual surveys of consumer trust in and concerns about the Canadian food system for the last five years.
COVID-19 restrictions hit many different sectors, but its impact was particularly visible in agri-food. For the first time in many people’s lives, there were empty shelves and buying limits for staples like eggs and milk.
But consumer trust and confidence in the food system is higher than ever, according to the latest research released last month. An all-time high of 47 per cent of respondents said they feel like the food system is moving in the right direction; 87 per cent said they were confident that our food system will keep fresh food available for all Canadians; farmers remain the most trusted source of information about food; and 60 per cent of Canadians said they trust food grown here more than imports.
Despite the headlines and occasionally empty shelves in the early days of the pandemic, the bounceback is what bolstered Canadian’s confidence, said the centre’s CEO John Jamieson. Shortages were limited and temporary. Jamieson read a comment from a consumer in Western Canada the other day. His area was in a snowstorm and going through the pandemic, but he could still go to the grocery store and buy bananas, or just about anything else he wanted. Canada’s food system had probably its most severe test ever and it came through.
Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The annual survey always asks for consumer’s top five concerns in general, and this year just as in the past five, the price of food was tops over everything else, including the economy and the federal deficit. And with a majority of Canadians saying they have less money to spend on food this year, that concern is likely to only get more acute.