Maple Leaf’s campaign to make food insecurity an election issue

Maple Leaf Foods has taken a strong political stand this election—without endorsing any party—by running a campaign to make food insecurity an election issue.

The Canadian packaged meats giant created the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security in 2016, with a goal of reducing food insecurity in Canada by 50% by 2030. According to the Centre, four million Canadians struggle to feed themselves or their family. Maple Leaf is calling this #unCanadian, launching the campaign in the middle of the election campaign to demand candidates take action.

“We like to think of Canada as a place where all people can thrive,” said Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods and honorary chair of the Centre, in an Oct. 2 press release. “So, it’s shocking that in one of the richest countries in the world, over four million people can’t meet the most basic need to reliably feed themselves or their families. This is intolerable, and we need to do more.”

The Centre’s website,, contains detailed information about the issue. A special #unCanadian section was added for the election, including food security questions people can ask their candidates, such as: “Given the link between poverty and food insecurity, what is your party’s perspective and approach to poverty reduction, including tax reform and a guaranteed annual income?”

There is also a trio of long-form (two minute-plus) videos that share real stories about the challenges of food insecurity. The creative direction of the #unCanadian campaign was designed by the agency Public, while Sid Lee developed the videos.

The #unCanadian campaign is much more about the issue than the Maple Leaf brand, said D’Arcy Finley, vice-president of brands at Maple Leaf Foods.

“We just think it is something that needs to be on the radar, and it is our duty to make sure it is a topic,” he said. The goal for Maple Leaf was to add it to the discussion without endorsing any one party. “We think this a serious systemic issue that doesn’t get the airtime it deserves.”

The Centre provides additional data to illustrate how low-income and minority populations are the hardest hit by food insecurity:

  • Indigenous and black households are 2.5 times more likely to face hunger;
  • More than 70% of kids in Nunavut live in households that struggle to have enough food;
  • More than 60% of food insecure Canadians have jobs; and
  • Nearly 40% of post-secondary students are food insecure.

“With #unCanadian, Maple Leaf is using its voice to drive change,” said Phillip Haid, co-founder and CEO of Public Inc. Because most effective change comes through government policy, it was important to make this an election issue.

“Increasingly both consumers and employees are looking to engage with brands that align with their values and back up their values with action,” he said when asked what the campaign could mean for Maple Leaf. “There is also a desire among consumers for companies to take stands on social and environmental issues that matter to us all.”

David Brown