This fall, the newly elected provincial government in British Columbia ran on a platform that included a commitment to “bring in local food programs in partnership with school districts”. On November 26, BC Premier John Horgan announced his new slate of cabinet ministers, along with mandate letters outlining the priorities for each Minister.
Both mandate letters addressed to Minister Jennifer Whiteside, newly elected Minister of Education, and Minister Lana Popham, re-elected Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, included directives to advance local school food programs:
BC Minister of Education Mandate Letter, 2020: “to help make sure students are properly fed for learning, work with school districts to create more local school meal programs based on district data and priorities, and work with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries to integrate FeedBC into this plan so that districts can include locally grown food.”
BC Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Mandate Letter, 2020: “support the work of the Minister of Education to help make sure students are properly fed for learning, working with school districts to create more local school meal programs based on district data and priorities, by integrating FeedBC into this plan so that districts can include locally grown food.
British Columbia is one of the first provincial governments, along with PEI, to include school food in mandate letters. By including school food in two mandate letters, the BC government is recognizing that successful school food programs need to be built with an interconnected and systems-wide approach. British Columbia’s Ministry of Health also continues to demonstrate leadership in advancing school food programs through its Healthy Schools portfolio. It is anticipated that the development of school food programs in British Columbia will involve coordination between all three Ministries.
The BC government's commitment is in response to increasing requests by stakeholders for a universal school food program in BC such as the BC Teachers' Federation and our own BC Chapter of the Coalition.
The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) recently held a series of webinars and workshops, as part of a virtual Think Tank on COVID-19 and food security with teachers and experts across the province, to discuss the role of teachers and the union in promoting food security in BC. To hear BCTF President Teri Mooring’s recent call for a universal school food program click here.
During the pre-election period, the 32 organizational members of the BC Chapter of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, alongside hundreds of supporters, were very active in writing to all political parties and seeking their commitments to universal school food programming. We are looking forward to working with the provincial Ministries of Education, Agriculture and Health, as well as key stakeholders like the BCTF, to advance the mandate of bringing in more local school meal programs in BC to make sure all students are properly fed for learning.
Given the federal government’s Budget 2019 commitment to work with the provinces and territories to create a national school food program for Canada, the BC Chapter of the Coalition for Healthy School Food will also be reaching out to the newly elected BC government to formally request that they approach the federal government to collaborate on the development of a universal cost-shared healthy National School Food Program.