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Growing the Grassroots: Nova Scotia's Efforts Towards a Universal Healthy School Food Program

Updated: Jun 13, 2018

By Margo Riebe-Butt, Executive Director, Nourish Nova Scotia

In the Fall of 2017, Margo Riebe-Butt, Nourish Nova Scotia Executive Director, and Satya Ramen, Ecology Action Centre (EAC) Senior Food Coordinator, traveled to Parliament Hill with then Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF) Coordinator Sasha McNicoll to meet with MPs and government officials about the work of the Coalition. These conversations revealed some important lessons.

“Nobody’s calling about school food”

Though there are many ongoing efforts to shift policy and practice for healthier food in Nova Scotia schools, as one MP put it, there are very few people calling to talk to them about school food. This same message is one that MLAs and municipal councilors also share; that despite the importance of this issue to so many, it’s not being heard as a constituent priority. There is a need for community members to let their elected representatives know that healthy food in schools matters to them.

There are many networks that support healthy food in schools in Nova Scotia that represent untapped potential regarding the call for a universal healthy school food program. Recognizing this opportunity, Nourish NS, Ecology Action Centre's Our Food Project and members of the Nova Scotia Health Authority convened a core team to begin planning an engagement strategy. The purpose? Growing and aligning grassroots support for a universal healthy school food program in Canada.

On March 28, 2018 twenty-five school food stakeholders from across Nova Scotia gathered for Growing the Grassroots: A Universal Healthy School Food Program for Canada. This action-oriented day centred on creating a focused communications plan to identify, engage and equip grassroots networks to help raise public and political awareness of the need for and benefits of a universal healthy school meal program. Youth, parents, school advisory councils and school administration were selected as strategic key audiences to target. The group also collaborated to draft key messages, tools, channels and evaluation ideas. Read a full summary from Growing the Grassroots here.

The momentum behind the CHSF is tangible

Participants left this event feeling motivated, refreshed and excited to be uniting our efforts on this focused, important issue: accessible, healthy food for all students. Over the next year, the core planning team will steward this campaign ensuring communities have the resources needed to engage their peers, political leaders and neighbours in this effort.

The benefits of a universal healthy school food program in Canada are clear. We hope you’ll stay tuned over the next few months as we begin to activate our networks to spread the word across Nova Scotia and beyond: we want a federal investment for a Universal Healthy School Food Program in Canada!

Resources and updates can be found at:



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