The Centre

Feed Opportunity: Food is the stuff of life. It nourishes our bodies, our minds, talents and aspirations. Food is a powerful enabler and a bridge to empower people and communities.

Understanding Food Security

People are food secure when they have stable access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Food insecurity ranges from worrying about running out of food, to compromising on or reducing food purchases, to going hungry and missing meals because of lack of food and money for food.1

Approximately 800 million people around the world are undernourished, almost one-fifth of the world’s population. Globally, some progress has been made during the past decade, with the number of people food insecure decreasing by more than 150 million.

Given these advances, it is particularly troublesome that in Canada, a country of considerable wealth and abundant farmland, over four million people suffer from food insecurity. This means that one in eight households and one in six children are affected by food insecurity. The impacts are substantially greater in northern regions, with 60% of children in Nunavut living in food insecure households. Unlike global advances, in the past decade there has been no decrease in food insecurity in Canada, and numbers are rising in some provinces.1

While the reasons for food insecurity are complex, the single greatest factor is income. Almost 50% of households living on less than $10,000 a year are food insecure, while very few households who earn $80,000 or more are food insecure. But there are other contributing factors, including geography, mental and physical health, and mobility.1

The reality is that Canada does not have a food shortage problem, but we do have a poverty problem and a food distribution problem. The income gap in Canada has widened over the past three decades according to UNICEF, and food experts believe one-third of food we produce is wasted.

Regardless of the underlying causes, the outcome is devastating:

  • Chronic disease increases – food insecurity is associated with higher prevalence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental problems and other diet related health issues.
  • The cost of health care rises – people who are living in extreme food insecurity cost the health care system 121% more. A recent Dietitians of Canada report estimates the cost of poverty on health care systems is an additional $7.6B annually, using 2007 data.
  • Mental health is impacted – mental health problems in mothers and children are more common when mothers are food insecure.
  • Isolation increases – poverty and food insecurity increase social isolation.
  • Aggression increases – children who are food insecure may experience an increase in an array of behaviour problems including: fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings and bullying.
  • Academic performance suffers – research shows a strong correlation between diet quality and concentration, alertness and academic performance (improved test scores, general math and reading scores) and positive social behaviours. Food insecure children are more likely to be suspended from school and have difficulty getting along with peers.

There are no easy solutions for this daunting issue, but there are actions we can take. Passionate community leaders, food experts and organizations are demonstrating tremendous innovation, parting with conventional charitable models and making a difference. Given the direct correlation between food security and public policy, national investments are critical, and various levels of government are moving forward. There is increasing knowledge sharing and collaboration. We need to tackle this chronic social issue with heightened urgency, recognizing the intersection of poverty, nutrition, culture and community and individual empowerment to improve food security. The Centre seeks to provide an important voice and support for change.

  • 1 We reference research by the PROOF report of 2014 extensively throughout this website and are grateful for their work. Source: Tarasuk, V., Mitchell, A., Dachner, N. (2016). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2014. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). Retrieved from

4,000,000 Canadians, or 12% of households, faced food insecurity in 2014, a number that has not abated since 2007.


The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security (“the Centre”) will work collaboratively with stakeholders to reduce food insecurity in Canada and globally. We are seeking to raise the profile of this pressing social issue; advocate for critical policies and invest in programs required to make sustainable improvements.

Through significant financial and in-kind support, the Centre will work with innovative food-based programs that advance the capacity of people and communities to achieve sustainable food security and have the potential to build scale and impact. We will support learning, networking and measurement to assess program impact, advance knowledge sharing more broadly and replicate and scale innovation that works.

1 in 6
children and 1 in 8 households are affected
by food insecurity in Canada.

Our Principles

  • The Centre will support food-based initiatives that promote dignity and build individual and community capacity to overcome food insecurity.
  • Together, we will feed opportunity, helping reduce social isolation and empowering people and communities to overcome barriers and advocate for themselves.
  • The Centre will support partnerships that go beyond emergency food aid to achieve sustainable solutions to food insecurity.
  • The Centre will support innovation, learning from what doesn’t work as well as what does.
  • The Centre will actively support volunteerism and connect people and expertise with its programs.
  • The Centre will build partnerships with governments, academia, non-profit organizations and the private sector to increase collective impact.
  • The Centre will seek to advance collective knowledge and impact, measuring social return on investment and sharing the learnings with others.

Theory of Change

Many programs that target food insecurity are small, localized, uncoordinated and based on a charitable model of giving versus a systems change approach. Many innovative organizations lack the necessary scale and resources to advance material change. The Centre will leverage Maple Leaf’s knowledge, resources and leadership in the Canadian food sector, the expertise of its board and others in food security, combined with financial support, to make a material impact on the issue.

diagram showing Innovation Fund – Learning Hub – Advocacy interdependencies

The Centre will direct resources in a targeted way to generate scalable social impact on food insecurity by:

  • Raising the profile of food insecurity
  • Finding the true food system innovators
  • Measuring and validating the impact of models
  • Scaling up high impact programs
  • Learning what’s working/not working and sharing the knowledge
  • Building funding networks and sources

To support this vital work, Maple Leaf is committed to contributing 1% of pre-tax profits annually to support the Centre and other community investments. In addition, the Centre will establish an endowment fund and conduct other fundraising activities to sustain and grow its contribution.

The Experts

Developing the ways and means to sustainably, equitably and ethically feed the world population will be one of the defining challenges for the next 50 years.”

– Evan Fraser, Board Director, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security

About Our Board

The Centre is committed to raising awareness and advancing sustainable solutions for food security. The Centre is a registered not-for-profit in Canada and is applying for charitable status.

We have assembled a strong Board of Directors to guide the Centre’s work. They include both people who bring expertise in food security and social change and Maple Leaf leaders. Together, the Board works to advance sustainable food security to achieve the Centre’s mandate: investing in research and innovation, advancing collaboration and learning among stakeholders, and working with other organizations, all levels of government and industry to advance programs and policies.

The Board is responsible for approving grants delivered under the Innovation Fund and Learning Hub.

Board Directors

Our Board of Directors provide oversight and governance for The Centre’s activities and lend their expertise to advance our work and impact.


Senior Vice-President, Retail Sales, Maple Leaf Foods

Curtis Frank is Senior Vice-President, Retail Sales at Maple Leaf. Mr. Frank is responsible for leading the Company’s cross-functional retail selling and customer business development efforts...


Director, University of Guelph Food Institute

Professor Fraser is the Director of the University of Guelph Food Institute, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and is also a professor of Geography. Professor Fraser received degrees in Forestry...


Program Director, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

Beth Hunter is Program Director at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, where she has worked since 2010, leading the Sustainable Food Systems initiative...


Professor of Sociology, Ryerson University

Mustafa Koç is a Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Bogazici University, a Master’s degree in Sociology at the University of Waterloo...


Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and Public Affairs, Maple Leaf Foods
Chair, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security

Lynda Kuhn is Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and Public Affairs at Maple Leaf. In this role, Ms. Kuhn is responsible for leading the development and implementation of a strong...


Senior Vice-President, Government and Industry Relations, Maple Leaf Foods

Rory McAlpine is Senior Vice-President, Government and Industry Relations with Maple Leaf Foods. In this role, Mr. McAlpine has overall responsibility for working with government and industry partners...


President and Chief Executive Officer, Maple Leaf Foods
Honourary Chairman, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security

Michael H. McCain is President and Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leaf Foods, one of Canada’s flagship food companies...

Learning Hub

Community advocates and organizations at the front lines of responding to food insecurity are underfunded, under-resourced and stretched to deliver critical support to their clients. As a result, sharing learning and building collaboration is often infrequent or a missed opportunity.

Through our work, the Centre will share what we learn from the projects that we invest in. More broadly, the Centre will support others in the food security sector to advance communications, a shared body of practice and research that builds our knowledge and collective impact.

The Learning Hub on this website contains a variety of reference materials and links to current information, and expert opinions on food security. It’s information that we continue to expand and build on as we invest and share learnings.

We make best efforts to review and share insightful information on food security in our Learning Hub, but cannot verify the accuracy or completeness of all materials, nor does inclusion in the Learning Hub imply endorsement of the positions and opinions expressed. If there are other important materials that you feel should be included, please reach out.

The Opportunity

Food insecurity is a problem of national and global proportions. We are feeding opportunity by identifying and scaling food security innovation as well as measuring and sharing impacts. We have the opportunity to align all of our efforts and foster scalable solutions that will bring meaningful and lasting change.

The Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund provides grants to registered charities engaged in testing and expanding innovative approaches to advance sustainable food security, with the goal of learning from successes and failures and creating scalable, replicable models. The Centre will support innovative initiatives that go beyond emergency food relief to help build capacity, support systems, develop skills and further economic opportunities. Through impact evaluation, the Centre and its grant recipients will extract key learnings that can increase effectiveness, benefit others in the sector, and lead to scalable, replicable approaches.

We will start taking applications for funding in 2017. Funding is available through our Innovation Fund and through our Learning Hub Fund. Please refer to the funding guidelines for more information before completing the application process.

Innovation Fund: Current Projects

Greater Vancouver Food Bank – Community Food Hubs

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The Greater Vancouver Food Bank (“GVFB”) recognizes that emergency food as a stand-alone is not a long-term solution to hunger. In 2013, they completed the organization’s first strategic plan and are moving beyond short term solutions to a model that fosters a path towards community food security. This is a model rooted in education, empowerment and sustainability and speaks to its mission: to create empowering environments that provide and promote access to healthy food, education and training and to their vision: accessible, healthy, and sustainable food for all.

Over the past three years, the GVFB has successfully transitioned two of its thirteen food bank locations to a Community Food Hub model. Community Food Hubs provide food access through a member-focused approach that prioritizes dignity, respect and health. The Centre’s investment will enable the GVFB to focus its resources to fully implement the Community Food Hub model in all of their distribution locations by 2019.

To begin, the GVFB will lay the foundation (site readiness) for a successful transformation by enhancing their current staff complement and building the overall human capacity of their staff and volunteers through a suite of specific training modules. This includes innovative training, increased member engagement, focus groups and targeted research. Once phase one is complete, they will shift their focus to build community capacity and explore partnerships (site connectivity) that will animate the hub space in meaningful ways.

Their evaluation will measure increased access to food, reduced isolation and access to additional services due to the Community Hub. The Centre will share key learnings through the GVFB transition to Community Hubs through its website and other communications.

If you would like to learn more about the great work that is happening with the GVFB Community Food Hubs, please visit

McQuesten Urban Farm

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The McQuesten Urban Farm is a unique and innovative project aimed at addressing food insecurity in a high-needs neighbourhood of over 7,000 people in Hamilton, Ontario. It is considered a food desert, with the closest grocery stores and sources of fresh food being two kilometres or more away. The urban farm has been spearheaded by a highly engaged and committed group of residents, through a comprehensive community planning process, who identified the need to advance food security by bringing fresh food production and food education to the heart of their neighbourhood. With significant support from the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Community Foundation, it was formally launched in spring 2016 with a focus on site construction, soil development and preliminary food production.

This project is a synergy of people, resources and collaboration. The McQuesten Urban Farm will make affordable fresh produce accessible to neighbourhood residents, support community food programs and social enterprise start-ups, and provide food education and skills programming to residents.

The farm expects to produce approximately 75,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, of which 50% will be sold into the neighbourhood at cost and the other half marketed outside of the neighbourhood to offset some of the operating and programming costs and support long term viability of the initiative.

The Centre for Action on Food Security will support staff and capital costs to enhance the food skills and education programming at the McQuesten Urban Farm and to pilot new neighbourhood-level food distribution programs to reduce barriers to healthy food for food insecure residents. This project is testing urban farming as a low cost means to grow and distribute healthy food as well as to reduce the social isolation and build the skills of the people within the community.

If you would like to learn more about the great work that is happening at the McQuesten Urban Farm, please visit

FoodShare Toronto

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Since 1985, FoodShare has pioneered innovative food programs like the Good Food Box, impacted what kids eat in school, improved access to fresh produce, and built capacity in communities to grow, cook, and share food across Toronto every day. Their programs are committed to food justice, so those experiencing the most food insecurity are leaders in developing their own food system solutions. Instead of a top down model, FoodShare develops complex networking and partnerships, as none of their programs are possible without local community leadership from individuals and organizations of all kinds.

FoodShare has just moved into the Weston Mount-Dennis area of Toronto, an underserved neighbourhood with few grocery stores, and even fewer fresh produce outlets. Though years ago there were many grocery stores along Weston Road in this west end working class neighbourhood, the loss of local jobs when Kodak and other manufacturing plants closed has left only one small grocery store between Lawrence and St. Clair. The area is identified as a Neighbourhood Improvement Area (NIA) by the City of Toronto.

FoodShare’s Good Food Markets are community markets that sell high quality, culturally appropriate, low-cost vegetables and fruits. These markets bring healthy produce to neighbourhoods where it might not otherwise be available, and where farmers’ markets aren’t viable because sales are too low to cover farmers’ costs. Getting healthy food into low income neighbourhoods and communities where walkable grocery stores don’t exist is the priority. These markets tend to create a certain kind of energy in the neighbourhood too. Rubbing shoulders with neighbours, trying new things, fresh air, exercise – you can get a lot more from a market than food.

While FoodShare knows that Good Food Markets work, the project seeks to evaluate the impact of a focused expansion of Good Food Markets, and FoodShare’s community development model, in an underserved community. To date, few rigourous evaluations have been undertaken in Canada to analyze whether a concerted neighbourhood level intervention can increase access to affordable produce and whether these initiatives can mitigate some of the impacts of poverty. The partnership with The Centre will allow FoodShare to test if the creation of Good Food Markets concentrated in one large neighbourhood can achieve the multiple goals of reducing food insecurity, increasing physical and mental health, and building community.

If you would like to learn more about the great work that is happening with FoodShare, please visit


Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative

Since its inception in 2014, the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture & Community Collaborative (NMFCCC) has supported 53 community-led food security and community economic development projects across Manitoba's North. Neighbourhood gardens and farms, wild food programs, bee apiaries, fishing co-operatives, and greenhouses are just some of the ways Northerners are using food to build community, improve health, create opportunity for youth, and strengthen local economies.

In addition to partnering financially with northern Manitoba communities to create sustained change, a key component of the NMFCCC is the shared learning experience that it affords. Organizations; northern advisors; a network of supporters in Manitoba and across the country; and the grantees to the Collaborative benefit by increasing their understanding of, and capacity to work with, northern communities and Indigenous cultures.

The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security will join the Collaborative to support community-led food security projects across Manitoba's North, to explore how specific projects may be able to be scaled and to support scoping to determine whether the Collaborative model could work in other geographic settings.

To learn more about the great work that is happening with The Northern Manitoba Food, Culture & Community Collaborative, please visit

Centre for Action on Food Security Funding Guidelines


The Innovation Fund and The Learning Hub Fund: Funding Guidelines

Funding is available through our Innovation Fund and through our Learning Hub Fund.

Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund provides grants to registered charitable organizations to support innovative approaches to advance sustainable food security, with the goal to develop experiential learning, conduct social impact assessments and create scalable, replicable models.

The focus is to support innovation that goes beyond emergency food relief to help build capacity, skills, economic opportunities and support systems. The Centre also seeks to establish meaningful relationships with funded organizations that support employee skills exchange, knowledge sharing and impact. Key learnings will be shared more broadly and potentially lead to scalable and replicable models.

To be eligible for a grant, a program/concept must demonstrate an innovative approach to building capacity and skills that enable people and communities to reduce social isolation, build skills and knowledge, build empowerment and advance sustainable food security. While food must be a core component of the program, food should also be an enabler to achieve broader goals. Skills development could include a spectrum of innovative approaches that enable people to become more food secure. Capacity building includes initiatives that enable communities and organizations to more effectively advance sustainable community food security. Grants will be considered for organizations that want to test measurable hypotheses and work with the Centre to create meaningful partnerships that allow us to learn together and extend that learning to others. The proposal must clearly define the learning outcomes and success criteria that the project seeks to achieve, so that progress can be measured through an annual evaluation or a more comprehensive social impact assessment.

Subject to annual review, grants may extend up to three years to allow sufficient time for grantees to test innovation and evaluate results. Proposals must include details on scope and costs of projects for each year that funding is requested. Innovation Fund grants will range from $25,000–$150,000 annually in order to provide adequate funding to test big ideas, although grants of smaller amounts will be considered. The Centre will seek to support a range of projects from smaller to larger investments.

Innovation Fund criteria:

  • The application addresses how the project takes an innovative approach with well defined learning outcomes
  • The project has the potential to be replicated and scaled
  • The project reaches high needs populations
  • The project is led by a registered charity
  • The project has clear measurable outcomes, supported by an annual project evaluation
  • The applicant agrees to work with the Centre to share key learnings with others
  • Funding may include operations, projects and capital requirements
  • The grantee permits Maple Leaf and the Centre to publicly communicate its support, including potential campaigns designed to raise awareness and fundraise that are developed in conjunction with the grantee
  • There is potential to increase impact through aligning with other funders, including Community Foundations, academia and government
  • There is potential for meaningful volunteerism and skills matching with Maple Leaf employees
  • The application shows how the project is sustained upon completion of Centre funding

The Innovation Fund will not consider:

  • Organizations that are not registered charities
  • Faith based initiatives
  • Political organizations
  • Projects that do not incorporate food as a core program element

Learning Hub Fund

The Learning Hub Fund provides grants to registered charitable organizations to advance knowledge transfer, training, evaluation tools and research that complements understanding of the issue and approaches to reduce food insecurity. Through the Learning Hub, the Centre will support participants in the food security sector to build communications, a shared body of practice, and research that builds our knowledge and collective impact.

To be eligible for a grant, programs/projects must demonstrate how they will advance new learning and collective knowledge within the food security sector. Proposals must include details on scope and costs of projects. Learning Hub grants will range from $10,000–$150,000. It is expected that these grants will be for a single project, although multi-year funding may be considered.

Learning Hub Fund criteria:

  • The project has the potential to be replicated and scaled
  • The project advances knowledge within the food security sector
  • The project is led by a registered charity
  • The project has clear measurable outcomes, supported by a project evaluation
  • The applicant agrees to work with the Centre to share key learnings with others
  • The grantee permits Maple Leaf and the Centre to publicly communicate its support, including potential campaigns designed to raise awareness and fundraise that are developed in conjunction with the grantee
  • There is potential to increase impact through aligning with other funders, including Community Foundations, academia and government
  • There is potential for meaningful volunteerism and skills matching with Maple Leaf employees

The Learning Hub Fund will not consider:

  • Organizations that are not registered charities
  • Faith based initiatives
  • Political organizations
  • Projects that do not incorporate food as a core program element

Funding Process

The Centre will have three funding cycles per calendar year for projects commencing January 1, May 1 and September 1. There is a two-step application process – the submission of a Letter of Intent (LOI) and Proposal. Applicants must be invited to submit a proposal following review of their LOI.

The LOI is an important step in our process as only some applicants will be invited to submit a formal proposal. The intention is for the LOI to be simple and easy to submit.

The LOI should be no more than three pages and should address the following:

  • Type of grant requested (Innovation or Learning Hub);
  • Amount of funding requested;
  • High-level project description, which includes an overview of the people/organizations the project will reach;
  • The innovation that is being advanced through the project;
  • The learning outcome that will result, benefiting the grantee and others engaged in advancing food security;
  • What the requested funds will enable the organization to achieve, that it could not achieve without the Centre’s support; and where applicable additional sources of funding that support this initiative.
  • The sustainability of the project after the completion of Centre funding.

After reviewing the LOIs, the Centre staff will follow up directly with organizations invited to submit formal proposals.

We are accepting LOIs until May 10, 2017 for our next round of funding.

Application Form

The Conversation

The timing for a dynamic and open discussion on food security couldn’t be better. We at the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security look forward to continuing the conversation through this section of our website and other places.

Many extraordinary people are deeply engaged in advancing sustainable food security and advocating for change, from leading researchers, policy experts, academics and organizations through to people delivering support on the ground. We plan to help share and facilitate a conversation about advancing food security and what individuals, organizations, communities and various levels of government are doing.

In this section you will find helpful links, videos and conversation starters where we can come together to discuss this important issue.

4 million Canadians

Building awareness of food insecurity in Canada

Food Insecurity

Introduction to the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Insecurity


Michael McCain keynote speech

Get In Touch

It’s important that we all share our views, knowledge and experience and we welcome your thoughts, comments and recommendations. Please reach out!