Understanding Food Security

Food nourishes our bodies, our minds, talents and aspirations. Food is a powerful enabler and a bridge to connect people and communities.

Understanding Food Security

People are food secure when they have stable access to enough nutritious and culturally appropriate food to support a healthy and active life. By contrast, people who are food insecure worry about running out of food, compromise on food quality in order to eat enough, or go hungry, often missing meals, because of lack of money for food.

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 facing hunger decreasing by more than 150 million over the last decade, but due to increased conflict in parts of the world, the numbers have begun to rise again.

It is particularly troublesome that in Canada, a country of considerable wealth and abundant farmland, over four million Canadians face these issues. 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

Canada does not have a food shortage problem, but we do have a poverty problem and a food distribution problem.

Regardless of the underlying causes, the impact of food insecurity is devastating:

  • Chronic disease increases – food insecurity is associated with higher rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental problems and other nutrition related health issues.
  • Healthcare costs rise – people who are living with severe food insecurity cost the health care system 121% more. A recent Dietitians of Canada report estimates the cost of poverty on the health care system is an additional $7.6B annually.
  • Mental health suffers – mental health problems are more common among people who are food insecure, while children who are food insecure may experience an increase in an array of behavior problems including: mood swings, fighting, hyperactivity, aggression and anxiety.
  • Loneliness increases – poverty and food insecurity increase social isolation.
  • Learning 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. Children who suffer food insecurity 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 leadership, and innovation to make a difference. Given the direct link between poverty and food insecurity, public policy and national investments are also essential. Various levels and departments of governments are moving forward. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are on the rise.

We all need to work together to tackle this social and public issue. We also need to work in ways that recognize the critical contribution that comes from community and individual empowerment. 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. 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 http://proof.utoronto.ca.

4,000,000 Canadians, or 12% of households, faced food insecurity in 2014.

Who We Are

Launched in December 2016, the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security is a registered charity working to advance food security through supporting innovative initiatives, promoting learning and collaboration, and advocating for change.


The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security (“the Centre”) collaborates with other organizations and individuals to advance food security. 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.

Bringing financial and significant collaboration and in-kind support, the Centre works with innovative food-based programs that advance the capacity of people and communities to achieve sustainable food security, and have the potential to be replicated or scaled to increase their impact. We support actions that further learning, networking and measurement to assess program impact and advance knowledge sharing.

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

Our Guiding Principles

  • The Centre supports food-based initiatives that foster dignity and promote personal and community capacity to overcome food insecurity
  • We support programs that reduce social isolation and empower people and communities to act, and advocate, for themselves
  • We support partnerships that go beyond emergency food aid to achieve more sustainable solutions
  • We support innovation, learning from what doesn’t work as well as what does
  • We support volunteerism and strive to connect our people and their expertise with our programs
  • We build partnerships with governments, universities, non-profit organizations and businesses to increase collective impact
  • We seek to advance collective knowledge, measure social return on investment and share lessons learned with others

Our Theory of Change

Advancing food security is a deep system challenge. We support programs, policy and initiatives that point the way forward to meaningful changes at the personal, community and government levels.

If we advocate and invest in projects designed to advance food security and capture learning about what creates meaningful change;

We expect to be able to scale impactful approaches up or out to increase their impact, working in close collaboration with our partners;

So that more communities, households and individuals achieve sustainable food security.

diagram showing Innovation Fund – Learning Hub – Advocacy interdependencies

The Centre’s investment strategy is to use resources in a targeted way to advance food security:

  • Raising the public profile of the issue
  • Supporting research, innovation and collaboration on the impact of models
  • Scaling up and/or replicating high-impact programs
  • Learning what’s working/not working and sharing the knowledge
  • Building funding networks and sources
  • Leveraging Maple Leaf’s skilled volunteer base

Our Supporters

Maple Leaf logo

To support this vital work, Maple Leaf is committed to contributing a minimum of 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 our contribution. The Centre will also facilitate volunteer participation of the Maple Leaf team eager to share their skills with community organizations.

Feed Opportunity Classic Supporters

Our Board

The Centre is committed to raising awareness and advancing sustainable solutions for food security. The Centre is a registered charity in Canada.

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.

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

Chris Fletcher

Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group

At BCG, Chris has primarily focused in the Retail and Consumer Goods space, with deep experience in large-scale transformation efforts (strategic, operational, organizational). Chris has led efforts...


President and Chief Operating Officer, Maple Leaf Foods

Curtis Frank is President and Chief Operating Officer at Maple Leaf. Mr. Frank has primary responsibility for leading Maple Leaf Foods’ commercial activities in prepared meats, as well as the company’s fresh pork, poultry and alternative protein businesses...


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...

Our Partners

We are proud to be partnering with innovative organizations across Canada to advance food security.

Our Partners

Community Food Centres Canada

Community Food Centres Canada

Depot Community Food Centre

Depot Community Food Centre

Eat West Coast

Eat West Coast

Food First NL

Food First NL

Food Secure Canada

Food Secure Canada

FoodShare Toronto

FoodShare Toronto

FortWhyte Farms

FortWhyte Farms

Greater Vancouver Food Bank

Greater Vancouver Food Bank

Kamloops Food Policy Council

Kamloops Food Policy Council



McQuesten Urban Farm

McQuesten Urban Farm

Meal Exchange

Meal Exchange

Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative

Northern Manitoba Food, Culture and Community Collaborative

Ottawa Food Bank

Ottawa Food Bank



Apply for Funding

We are feeding opportunity by identifying and supporting initiatives which advance food security and have the potential to be replicated or scaled for greater impact. We are looking to learn new lessons about what works and what may not work through each partnership that we build.

The Feed Opportunity Fund

The Feed Opportunity Fund provides grants to organizations engaged in testing and expanding innovative approaches to advance food security. We aim to learn from the successes and failures of each initiative that we support and to find models that work which have the potential to be replicated or scaled for greater impact.

Centre for Action on Food Security Funding Guidelines

Projects considered for funding typically focus on one of the following areas of food security:

  • Affordability
  • Accessibility
  • Build individual and community capacity
  • Expand knowledge and evaluate impact through research
  • Foster collaboration and knowledge sharing

We expect proposals to outline evaluation criteria that assess whether the project is working towards at least one of the following outcomes:

  • Consistent availability of nutritious and affordable food
  • Ability to physically access nutritious and affordable foods in a convenient and dignified manner
  • Ability to afford nutritious foods
  • Basic food literacy
  • Basic financial literacy and the ability to influence one’s own financial well-being
  • Absence of social stigma associated with food assistance

Feed Opportunity Grant Eligibility

To be eligible for a grant, a program/concept must demonstrate an innovative approach that enables people and communities to reduce social isolation; build skills, capacity, and knowledge; and advance 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 approaches that enable people to become more food secure, while capacity building could include 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 project milestones, as well as clear, measurable success criteria that align with at least one of the six outcomes listed under Funding Guidelines (see above). Proposals must demonstrate how these criteria will be assessed over the duration of the project to determine progress on the chosen outcomes (i.e. through an annual evaluation).

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.

We will not consider the following for Feed Opportunity Grants:

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

The Feed Opportunity Fund provides grants that fall under two categories, “Projects” and “Learning”.

Feed Opportunity Project Grants

Feed Opportunity Project Grants support initiatives that go beyond emergency food relief to help build capacity, support systems, develop skills and further economic opportunities. We also seek to establish meaningful collaborative relationships with partners that support employee skills exchange, knowledge sharing and impact. Lessons learned will be shared broadly and potentially lead to scalable and replicable models.

Feed Opportunity Project 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.

What are the project grant 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/or scaled
  • The project reaches high-needs populations
  • The project has clear, measurable outcomes, supported by an annual project evaluation
  • The applicant agrees to work with the Centre to share knowledge with others
  • Funding may include operations, projects and some 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

Feed Opportunity Learning Grants

The Feed Opportunity Learning grants advance knowledge transfer, training, evaluation tools and research that furthers understanding of food security, and the effectiveness of different interventions. Through the Learning grant, the Centre also supports networking 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.

Feed Opportunity Learning Grants 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.

What are the learning grant criteria?

  • The project advances knowledge within the food security sector
  • The applicant agrees to work with the Centre to share knowledge 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

Funding Process

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 Centre’s Board of Directors reviews all proposals and is responsible for funding approvals.

The LOI is an important step in our process as only some applicants will be invited to submit a formal proposal. The LOI should be no more than three pages and should address the following:

  • Type of grant requested (Project or Learning)
  • Amount of funding requested and number of years funding is requested for
  • Brief description of project, which includes an overview of the people/organizations the project will reach
  • The innovation that is being advanced through the project
  • The food security outcomes (see Funding Guidelines) and associated learnings that are expected to 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.

Our next deadline to receive LOIs will be in the fall of 2020. Please check our website and social media for updates.

Application Form

Scholarship in Food Insecurity

The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security is pleased to announce the creation of nine scholarships in recognition of the extraordinary contribution of David Emerson, Wallace McCain, and Purdy Crawford as past Chairs of the Maple Leaf Foods’ Board of Directors. Three scholarships will be distributed each year for three years, beginning in the 2020/2021 academic year.

The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security works collaboratively to achieve its goal of reducing food insecurity in Canada by 50% by 2030. This includes supporting research that advances a better understanding of food insecurity in Canada. These scholarships will support master’s or PhD students who propose to pursue research that contributes to the body of knowledge on food insecurity, including determinants, risk factors, impacts, and the efficacy of potential interventions such as programs, policies, and market instruments.

Click below to download a PDF with funding guidelines:

Scholarship Application Guidelines


Learning Hub

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.

Learning Hub

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.

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.

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

Advancing Food Security

The need for collaboration

Advancing Food Security

Food is not the answer

4 million Canadians

Building awareness of food insecurity in Canada

About the Centre

Introduction to the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security


Michael McCain keynote speech

Food Security Symposium: March 28, 2018 171KB

Michael McCain opening remarks

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.


By supporting the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, you are advancing food security in Canada.


The Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security is a registered Canadian charity, and our registration number is 74234 1092 RR0001.

Your support will help us advance food security by increasing awareness of the issue and advocating for change, and building partnerships with innovative organizations across Canada that are creating sustainable change through new approaches to tackling a widespread chronic social issue.

To make an online donation, please fill out the secure form below.

Should you prefer to write a cheque, please send it to:

Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security
6895 Financial Drive
Mississauga, ON  L5N 0A1

Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $20 or more.

Contact Us

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