Approaches Linking Health and Agri-Food Priorities
The following is a sample of approaches discussed at the CAPI Leaders Summit on a Healthy and Prosperous Future where organizations have created links between the health and agri-food sectors. CAPI presents these approaches as examples only.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, regular exercise and not smoking has been estimated to reduce heart disease by as much as 90%. At the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) in Winnipeg, an integrated agri-food and health research team is conducting clinical trials to test whether consuming natural health products can lessen the incidence of disease. A prime example is the work using dietary flaxseed to address the problems of heart disease in a major clinical trial. The ultimate objective is to create food products that can be moved into the marketplace and reduce the consumer's risk of heart disease. The potential benefits to the agri-food sector are significant, as positive results could provide opportunities to flax growers, processors and retailers. The CCARM is supported by a formal agreement between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Manitoba and St. Boniface General Hospital.
"Local Food Approach"
Real Food for Real Kids is a family-run catering business that was created when one couple, concerned about the nutritional content of the food served in their son's daycare, began providing the facility with healthy snacks and lunches. In just five years, it has grown to a business that serves 5,574 kids in 116 centers every day, generating in excess of $4 million in annual revenue, and employing 50 people. Real Food for Real Kids has taken advantage of a program called Local Food Plus (LFP), which encourages sustainable practices and connects growers with purchasers. As a result, 29 producers are benefiting from the strong, dependable and growing market for healthy ingredients provided by Real Food for Real Kids.
Launched in France in 2003, EPODE (Together Let's Prevent Childhood Obesity) is a locally-based health program credited with reducing obesity by 50% in participating communities. This integrated and concrete prevention program is aimed at facilitating the adoption of healthier lifestyles, including a healthier diet that contains local produce. Local ownership is a key to success. Communities can customize their approaches and each mayor is responsible for mobilizing the community. The program is partly funded by stakeholders from the food industry. This sponsorship helps keep the public costs down, while the program's ethics charter ensures that economic interests do not unduly influence the program. The program now extends to nearly 1.8 million inhabitants in 167 French cities, 20 cities in Spain and 8 cities in Belgium.
Providing nutrition information on food labels has been shown to increase consumer demand for healthier products. NuVal is a simple numeric system of food labeling developed by an independent group of international public health scientists with no industry or government ties and endorsed by an independent organization of health professionals: the American College of Preventive Medicine. It is in use in over 500 supermarkets to date, and has a database of over 40,000 scored foods. This spring, it will be adopted by one of the major retail grocers in the United States.
Cargill, working with the Canola Council of Canada, has developed a Specialty Canola Oil that is trans-frat free. Developing a product with proven health benefits from initial research to a marketable product takes 10 to 12 years and can cost $50-100 million. Therefore, establishing a large and dependable market is essential. Recently, McDonald's replaced its cooking oil with trans-fat free oils. Currently, 1.5 million acres are being dedicated to the growing of this specialty canola in Canada.
Potatoes are an important crop in Canada. But consumers today are very mistrustful of the nutritional value of French fries. Given that French fries account for about 50% of potato consumption, addressing consumer concerns is critical to protecting a strategic crop for Canada. Moreover, French fries are an important source of affordable nutrition. In response to similar concerns expressed by consumers in the UK, the company educated consumers about how its product, Oven Chips, contains only potatoes and sunflower oil. McCain attributes securing over 3 million additional consumers over a one-year period in the UK to making its products healthier and providing consumers with more transparent ingredient information. McCain Foods has begun to take a similar approach in Canada.
In June, 2007 the fund for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle was established. It is a partnership of the Lucie and Andre Chagnon Foundation (LACF) and the Government of Quebec, valued at $480 million over 10 years (2007-2017). The mission is to encourage young Quebec residents to adopt a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle and promote environments favourable to a healthy lifestyle. Among the initiatives of the foundation are: efforts to mobilize the agri-food industry to improve the nutritional value of food; promoting success stories about healthy lifestyles; and training culinary experts in many sectors to produce healthy meals.For more information on the Leaders Summit:
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