Strong Support for National School Food Program Evident in Federal Report

by Ella

A recent federal government report reveals overwhelming support for the establishment of a national school food program in Canada, addressing the increasing need among children. The report, released on Tuesday, summarizes the feedback received regarding a proposed national school food policy. In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to investing $1 billion over five years for this initiative, assigning his agriculture minister and minister of families, children, and social development to develop the policy.

Notably, Canada is the sole G7 nation without a national school food program.


The report underscores the widespread consensus on the benefits of such programs for children, with 96 percent of respondents believing that they contribute to teaching healthy habits and aiding in focus and learning.


Over 5,000 responses were collected from both individual Canadians and organizations through an online questionnaire in late 2022. The survey participants voiced their support for a universal program, which would ensure that every child has access to school food. This inclusive approach aims to involve students in the process while integrating food literacy into the school day.


Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, emphasized the importance of this initiative, stating, “No child should go to school on an empty stomach, and if they do, our schools need to be able to provide them with a nutritious meal.”


However, advocates have expressed growing frustration with the pace at which the government is progressing in the policy’s development. Local programs have encountered difficulties in providing meals to children due to rising food prices and the heightened demand from families struggling to meet living costs.

Presently, a patchwork of community-driven food programs exists across Canada, offering snacks, breakfast, or lunch to approximately one million school-age children, constituting 21 percent of the student population. These programs are funded by local and provincial governments, relying significantly on support from non-governmental organizations and community donations.

Debbie Field, coordinator of the Montreal-based Coalition for Healthy School Food, stressed the need for immediate action from the federal government, noting that every province and territory has contributed, and it is time for the federal government to fulfill its promise.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a nutritious school food program promotes better student attendance, classroom participation, and physical well-being. For instance, a study in 2021 examined the long-term effects of Sweden’s free school lunch program, revealing that those exposed to the program throughout their elementary school years had 3 percent higher lifetime earnings, with the greatest benefits observed among those from lower-income households.

Advocates argue that the economic advantages of investing in such programs are clear, and the federal government must act promptly to ensure a competitive economy and the long-term health of citizens.

Calls for federal intervention have intensified, with initiatives like a Vancouver teacher running 200 laps around his school to draw attention to the need for a national school food program. The program currently provides lunch to about 200 students at Lord Roberts Elementary, and older students participate in meal preparation.

In the past, approximately 40 students received meal subsidies, but this number has risen to 60, with several more students requesting support. Last year, British Columbia allocated a historic $214 million over three years to expand school food programs in its budget, signaling the urgency of federal involvement in ensuring all students benefit from such programs.



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