On Thursday June 14, 2018, the Coalition for Healthy School Food celebrated when Senator Art Eggleton introduced Motion #358 in the Senate calling for “an adequately funded national cost-shared universal nutrition program with the goal of ensuring healthy children and youth”.
The Coalition has been working with Senator Eggleton, a long-standing supporter of nutritious school food programs, to see this motion introduced. We would like to take this moment to applaud his leadership towards improving our children’s health! As the debate about this Motion continues to take place, the Coalition will be speaking about how schools would be an ideal setting for a national nutrition program for children and youth to be implemented.
To join us in showing public support for this motion you can share the news at #nourishkidsnow, #schoolfoodmatters, and #HealthySchoolFood. We also encourage you to communicate your support for this idea with Members of the Senate and MPs!
The Motion and the Coalition's response:
Here is the full wording of Motion #358 that was introduced in the Senate:
“That the Senate urge the government to initiate consultations with the provinces, territories, Indigenous people, and other interested groups to develop an adequately funded national cost-shared universal nutrition program with the goal of ensuring healthy children and youth who, to that end, are educated in issues relating to nutrition and provided with a nutritious meal daily in a program with appropriate safeguards to ensure the independent oversight of food procurement, nutrition standards, and governance.”
We are extremely pleased that Senator Eggleton referenced elements of many of the Guiding Principles that the Coalition has identified for school food programs. The Coalition has identified these principles - Universal, Health-Promoting, Sustainable, Respectful, Connected, and Comprehensive - as ones that can ensure that school food programs live up to their full potential.
Universal: We are thrilled that Senator Eggleton identified the need for a universal program. Universal programs increase access, reduce stigma, and ensure that all children and youth can access good, healthy food. As stated by the Senator: "a publicly funded youth meal program addresses the problem of hunger and fosters a healthy relationship with food. It not only provides access to nutritious meals but can also be a valuable tool to facilitate student success and well-being. A universal nutrition program would provide a nutritious meal to all children; it would support the development of healthy eating patterns for all children, regardless of income.”
Health-promoting: The best practice is for school food programs to focus on the provision of whole foods, and in particular vegetables and fruit. We applaud Senator Eggleton for focusing on healthy food and speaking to the need for nutrition standards in his speech, including his statements that: "We know that children who eat nutritious meals feel better, and they learn better." "it’s important to make sure that healthy options are available."
Sustainable: The Coalition's guiding principles note that the best practice is for programs to be sustainable financially and in terms of capacity-building. We greatly appreciate that this is integrated into the very text of Senator Eggleton's motion, calling for "an adequately funded national cost-shared universal nutrition program "
Respectful: This principle reflects on how programs should respect local conditions and needs so as to be culturally appropriate and locally adapted. We appreciate that Senator Eggleton's Motion has called on "the government to initiate consultations with the provinces, territories, Indigenous people, and other interested groups" in the development of such a program so that it can be culturally appropriate and locally adapted.
Connected: This principle includes the idea that programs are connected to local communities and work towards drawing upon local food resources where possible, supporting local producers and creating economic multipliers. Senator Eggleton references this principle by sharing that "In Brazil, school food programs by law must purchase 30 per cent of their food from small-scale local farmers."
Comprehensive: The last principle for strong school food programs is that programs work towards integration with curricula to incorporate food literacy, nutrition education and food skills. Students are involved with school food programs through hands-on food growing, preparation, budgeting, management and other learning to foster experiential learning (learning by doing). Senator Eggleton referred to this concept with his statement that "Not-for-profits from across the country are finding innovative ways not only to feed children but to also teach them how to cook, garden and to strengthen school communities with food.” He also remarked that "Finland has a successful national nutrition program where children are fed a balanced, healthy meal every day while sitting around the table in a communal way, as a supervisor teaches them about nutrition, healthy eating and about table manners. That’s the combination for a national nutrition program for youth."
The Coalition is also excited that Senator Eggleton has referred to how a national nutrition program could align with the Canada Food Guide with his statement that: "I believe the timing of this motion couldn’t be better because the Minister of Health is currently revising the Canada Food Guide as part of the government’s Healthy Eating Strategy. This would be a natural extension of that strategy.”
** Please see the Coalition’s recent submission to the federal Standing Committee on Health that shares what we see as the opportunity for a national school food program to bring Canada’s Food Guide to life. **
In closing, we want to share and reinforce Senator Eggleton's closing remarks:“we can no longer turn a blind eye to what is quickly becoming a health crisis in our country. If we want to improve the health of our population, we need to instill healthy eating habits in people when they are young. Initiating a universal nutrition program where all Canadian children can get access to healthy food and also learn about nutrition is the right thing to do, and it’s right to do it now.”
What are the next steps around this Motion?
We anticipate that the Senate will soon break for the summer and that the Motion will receive more discussion in the fall. We're looking forward to helping it get wide public support at that time!
The full transcript of the Senator’s speech is available on the Senate Website or you can listen to the full speech (go to time point 16:42:14). You can also access the full media release put out by the Coalition on June 15th.
Please share the info with your lists and have people sign up for Coalition updates here.