Canada - Nutrition

Canada is a leader in the nutrition sector

In 2020, Canada disbursed US$70 million in nutrition-specific funding (see box for details), according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Funding is much higher when including nutrition-sensitive interventions. According to the 2020 Global Nutrition Report, Canada was the second-largest donor country (behind the US) in nutrition-sensitive interventions in 2019 (latest available data), disbursing US$847 million in funds to this sector.

Canada’s nutrition-related activities are embedded in the Feminist International Assistance Policy’s second action area, ‘Human Dignity’. Given the policy’s gender-equality lens, ensuring adequate nutrition for adolescent girls and pregnant women is a core focus, as well as a campaign to combat gender-based discrimination that forces women and girls to “eat less and eat last”.

According to the policy, Canada will leverage its nutrition investments to increase the provision of micronutrient supplements, and advocate for gender-responsive nutrition policies within international working groups such as Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN). Through its work with SUN, Canada aims to:

  • Raise awareness about the connections between nutrition and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR);
  • Advocate for increased investments in nutrition from the international community; and
  • Partner to provide vulnerable populations with effective nutrition interventions.

Canada is actively involved in international nutrition initiatives, and this involvement has intensified as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Between February 2020 and December 2021, Canada pledged a total of CA$1.1 billion (US$820 million) in nutrition programming in response to COVID-19. In mid-April 2020, Canada's Minister of International Development convened a virtual meeting of the UN's Group of Friends on Food and Nutrition Security to discuss strategies for mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on food access in low-income countries. Canada also pledged funds to the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and to Nutrition International’s emergency catch-up campaign for vitamin A supplementation, aiming to reach the children who failed to receive this intervention due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Canada hosts and is a large funder of Nutrition International (formerly the ‘Micronutrient Initiative’), a collaborative not-for-profit platform for technical experts, advocates, and other nutrition champions to advance innovative solutions to reduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies through advocacy and technical and programmatic support. In 2020, Canada (alongside Bangladesh and Japan) hosted Nutrition International’s kickoff event for the year of action leading up to the 2021 Nutrition for Growth Summit, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of women and girls. At the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit (N4G) in December 2021, Canada pledged CA$520 million (US$389 million) for nutrition-specific investments over the next five years.

GAC sets nutrition policies; Global Issues and Development branch is a key player

Under the overall guidance of the Prime Minister, GAC steers development policy, including for nutrition. Within GAC, priority-setting for nutrition-related policies sits with the Global Issues and Development Branch, and the units for ‘Global Health, Nutrition and Education’ and ‘Global Food Security and Environment’. GAC’s four geographic branches managing regional and country programs play a key role in programming nutrition-related activities in Canada’s partner countries.


Nutrition-specific: Interventions that address immediate causes of undernutrition and have the improvement of nutrition (i.e., support for exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, etc.) as their primary objective.

Nutrition-sensitive: Interventions that address underlying causes of malnutrition and that take into account cross-sector actions and impacts (i.e., improving access to diverse foods).