The Hamilton Spectator

Shifting toward sustainabl­e food choices

Canadians are not prepared to make in-depth transforma­tions

- DAVIDE DEL BROCCO DAVIDE DEL BROCCO IS SENIOR SUSTAINABI­LITY MANAGER AT SODEXO CANADA.

The goals and intentions we set at the start of the year, combined with unease for what’s ahead, have one major overlap — food.

Concerned about our health, wallet and the climate, what we choose to eat has a profound impact on us and our environmen­t.

Canadians are well aware of the urgent need to change their eating habits toward sustainabi­lity and have aspiration­s to do so. Yet, there’s a gap between intentions and actions.

What we aspire to do and the behaviours we engage in face many obstacles. But there are also many incentives to making the shift toward more sustainabl­e diets.

According to Sodexo Canada’s first “Sustainabl­e Food Barometer” survey conducted by Leger in December 2023, the feeling of urgency and the desire to change, while strong, come up against financial considerat­ions and entrenched eating habits. So far, the changes that Canadians are prepared to make are more about reduction or adjustment­s than in-depth transforma­tions. And that’s a decent start.

We conducted the barometer to better understand how consumers think about making sustainabl­e choices, and how we can continue to support improvemen­ts across the entire food ecosystem. Nearly nine out of 10 Canadians believe adopting more sustainabl­e behaviours is an urgent matter, compared to eight in 10 globally. This is the same regardless of income and is highest among 18- to 24-year-olds. And most Canadians say they’ve already adopted some sustainabl­e food habits, like reducing household food waste, eating seasonal produce and buying local whenever possible.

However, when shopping for groceries, price is the most important factor, with 91 per cent placing it in the top five, followed by taste and nutritiona­l value. The least important factor was the product’s environmen­tal impact.

As well, three quarters of all Canadians say they don’t have the desire or intention to give up meat. Twothirds don’t want to give up fish and over half say the same about dairy. This is substantia­lly higher than the global average as measured by Sodexo’s global barometer, where only two-fifths say they don’t want to give up meat or fish.

However, progress is seen in the willingnes­s of almost half of Canadians to reduce their consumptio­n of animal proteins in favour of plant proteins and to reduce their consumptio­n of dairy products. Reduction in meat and dairy consumptio­n, and readjustme­nts to a greater variety of affordable, tasty and healthy plantbased meals can occur without major diet upheavals.

The personal benefits of sustainabl­e food choices are excellent motivation. Reducing meat and increasing veggies have numerous health benefits, and swapping to plant-based proteins like legumes offers financial savings.

Ultimately, our individual choices have collective benefits for society. Reducing animal protein in our diets profoundly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, conserves water and supports food autonomy.

As both observer and influencer of consumer food consumptio­n patterns, we see the need and desire to accelerate change. The food service industry must work to improve how and what we serve Canadians, conscious of our role and environmen­tal impact throughout the entire supply chain.

By committing to reducing our environmen­tal impact through offering more sustainabl­e food choices, and sourcing, preparing, and serving them in more sustainabl­e ways, we can create real change. And by offering consumers a choice, we can make it easier and more desirable to make the shift.

From aspiration to inspiratio­n and motivation, we encourage Canadians to eat and serve more sustainabl­y, for the health benefits, cost savings and the ultimate benefit of limiting climate change for ourselves and generation­s to come.

 ?? ADAM MELNYK DREAMSTIME ?? Canadians are well aware of the urgent need to change their eating habits toward sustainabi­lity and have aspiration­s to do so. Yet, there’s a gap between intentions and actions, Davide Del Brocco writes.
ADAM MELNYK DREAMSTIME Canadians are well aware of the urgent need to change their eating habits toward sustainabi­lity and have aspiration­s to do so. Yet, there’s a gap between intentions and actions, Davide Del Brocco writes.

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