Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card


The first step to developing the Food Counts Report Card was to conduct an environmental scan of existing report cards and the indicators they used. This enabled us to assess the kind of data available for Canada, at either a national or provincial levels that could be aggregated. From there, we developed a set of criteria to asses which data sources to include in the report card:

  1. Scale-relevant: data is available on a national/pan-Canadian scale
  2. Measurable: indicator is quantifiable
  3. Available: data is available to the public
  4. Cost-effective: data is accessible with little monetary input
  5. Stable: data is consistently collected and replicable one time to the next
  6. Reliable/credible: data is collected in a methodologically sound way
  7. Understandable/usable: indicator is easily grasped by interpreters of data so they can apply it in their own community
  8. Sensitive to change: indicator responds to change over a reasonable length of time

Since an objective of our report card was to have a benchmark to assess changes in the food system over time, whether the data would again be available at a later date was a key consideration. It is important to note that the indicators chosen for this report card do not reflect a comprehensive set of measures of Canada’s food systems. For example, an effort was made to keep the indicators clear and accessible, therefore certain indicators which did not meet this criterion were not selected. Moreover, certain indicators were prioritized over others according to the validity and reliability of the data. We also avoided choosing indicators which would require additional primary data collection at this time. We began searching for data using Statistics Canada, the national data collection agency that conducts a Census every five years and about 350 other surveys on a variety of social and economic aspects of Canadian life.[1] We searched Statistics Canada surveys for indicators that were comparable to those we identified in our environmental scan using key word searches and subject browsing. We also searched well-known organizations for agriculture- and food-related indicators (e.g., Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, OECD Data) and well as other Canadian based organizations that collect data relevant to our report card. We then classified all of the identified available indicators within the seven food sovereignty pillars, and recorded information regarding the source of data, geographic scale, time line for data collection, most recent data points, and whether or not the indicator met all eight of the selection criteria. Certain indicator data was disaggregated across specific population groups to highlight the differential impact of historical and current policies. Finally, the data for the selected indicators was downloaded and organized in tabular format and graphical representations of the data were produced and are presented in Section 3: Available Indicator Data. To acquire feedback on the indicators selected and the Food Counts Report Card, we consulted with a wide range of food systems researchers and practitioner networks through roundtable conversations and individual meetings. The feedback was incorporated into the report card. For example, several suggestions pointed to missing indicators which informed the search process and data collection as well as our wish list indicators.


There are several limitations to this report card which are important to note:

  • The potential privileging of scientific knowledge over traditional knowledge
  • Budget constraints for accessing industry compiled data
  • Reliance on Federal census data which is only collected every 5 years
  • Limited availability of certain data at a national scale

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Please note: The Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card is a working document. If you have comments, questions, or would like to suggest additional data sources or indicators, please fill out the Food Counts Report Card Feedback Form.

Section Notes

1. Statistics Canada. (2016). Mandate and objectives. Retrieved from