I recently had the privilege of hearing Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, talk at a Canadian Club luncheon in Toronto. He began his speech with “My idea is simple. Everybody in Canada should have enough to eat. People in this country – with all our wealth and abundant farmland – should have affordable access to nutritious food. This is the most basic human need”. Mr. McCain went on to present the staggering data about the extent, nature and impact of food insecurity in Canada – a surprise to some in the room, hopefully uncomfortable and unacceptable to all.
What may sound like a simple idea, of course, often requires a complex and multi-faceted solution. As Mr. McCain told his audience, it requires leadership from all sectors, supported by effective public policy, and empowering new and sustainable strategies.
Following a thoughtful process of research and strategic planning, Maple Leaf Foods, has identified the role that it can play in achieving the vision of all Canadians having affordable access to nutritious food. It has launched The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, a not-for-profit organization that will strive to have an impact on the issue of food security through advocating to raise awareness, sharing knowledge, and investing in new approaches. Hamilton’s own McQuesten Urban Farm is one of the first three projects the centre will support. Maple Leaf’s goal, working collaboratively with all stakeholders, is to reduce food insecurity in Canada by 50 percent by 2030. Audacious, but achievable, in the view of Michael McCain and his team.
So what can we all take away from this? For me, it underscores the important elements for creating the positive change we want to see: find the issue that you think is important and care about; do the research to understand what will really make a difference; bring all your resources to bear – time, money, networks, influence; and work collaboratively with others who share your vision.
Mr. McCain, I was inspired by your talk and strategy. I hope others were too.
Sheree Meredith is Vice-President of Philanthropic Services