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Municipal support continues to grow for a National Universal Healthy School Food Program!

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

In our previous blog post “Call for a National Universal Healthy School Food Program has Municipal Support!” we wrote about how momentum has been building at the municipal level in support of a national school food program. As of July 2020, motions have now been passed in support of a national school food program by the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Food Policy Council, City of Victoria, BC School Trustees Association, Vancouver Board of Education, City of Toronto, Toronto District School Board, City of Toronto Board of Health, Western Kings and Annapolis Community Health Boards and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

The past several months have seen some exciting new developments from municipal leaders:

Just in the past month, the Western Kings and Annapolis Community Health Boards (CHBs) in Nova Scotia wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to encourage the federal government to continue to move forward its March 2019 federal budget commitment to develop a National School Food Program in consultation with provinces, territories and civil society organizations.

On June 11, 2020, the Western Kings CHB's sent their letter, which articulates 3 main issues that a universal, cost-shared national healthy school food program would help to address:

  • To “help kids reach their full potential in the classroom and in life. Nova Scotia research has identified a strong association between diet and academic performance. Without proper nutrition, children and youth’s learning and skill development is significantly impaired.”

  • To “curb rising rates of chronic disease. 1 of every 3 Nova Scotians are not getting enough vegetables and fruits, dramatically increasing their risk of developing chronic life-changing diseases, such as diabetes and heart diseases.”

  • To “Support the local economy and environment. Our food choices impact more than our bodies, they impact our economies and our environment. Purchasing from local farmers and food producers supports local economies, decreases greenhouse gas emissions by reducing distances our food travels, and enhances awareness about eating sustainably for people and the planet.”

On July 10, 2020, the Annapolis CHB modeled the Western Kings CHB's initiative and sent a copy of the letter to the Prime Minister. These letters close by stating that “We cannot afford not to do this. Therefore, the Western Kings Community Health Board / Annapolis Community Health Board is calling for a funded National School Food Program to be established in Canada as per the recommendation put forward by the Coalition for Healthy School Food submitted for the 2020 Budget.”

Other Community Health Boards across Nova Scotia are also speaking out in support of a National School Food Program.

On June 24 Kennedy Stewart, Mayor, City of Vancouver, sent this letter: Taking Steps Toward a National Cost-Shared Universal Healthy School Food Program to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In it Mayor Steward refers to how “Vancouver City Council recognizes that access to nutritious and affordable food is fundamental to health and equity, and that children in particular require nutritious foods for normal growth and learning” and that “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic City staff are concerned that food prices will increase due to disruptions in the agricultural supply chain, further increasing the number of families experiencing food insecurity.”

The letter closes with the statement that “With income and food insecurity increasing among Canadians, a school food program on a national scale is essential to address inequality and ensure all Canadian children learn basic food skills and have access to healthy meals that support classroom learning. This type of program will also support Canada’s national economic recovery from COVID-19 through the expansion of the agricultural sector, as well as increasing local food security and the resilience of local communities to respond to future emergencies.”

This followed the March 11, 2020, Vancouver City Council motion:

THAT Vancouver City Council direct the Mayor, on behalf of Council, to write to the Prime Minister of Canada to encourage the Government of Canada to make the creation of a Cost-Shared Universal Healthy School Food Program a top priority for the national agenda of the 43rd Parliament in 2020, consistent with the leadership already shown by the Government of Canada in working to create a national food policy, with copies of the letter sent to the Premier of British Columbia and the Provincial Ministers responsible for school food, namely the Ministers of Education Health and Agriculture; FURTHER THAT Council’s letter to the Prime Minister should reference the City and Council’s strong support for the Federal Government to work with the Provinces, Territories, Indigenous communities, and non-profit groups to create a Cost-Shared Universal Healthy School Food Program that ensures all school children learn basic food skills and have access to healthy, nutritious meals every day to support classroom learning while also modelling healthy eating and teaching food skills.

On March 27, 2020 the Toronto District School Board wrote to Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau to ask that “your government moves forward with the funding and implementation of [a national school food program]”.

As stated in their letter, “We know that well-nourished children are more ready and able to learn, both physically and mentally. However, we also know many families in Toronto do not have the means and/or the time to provide their children with the most nutritious foods to support their learning and wellbeing. A national food program would help address the inequities of food security in our city and provide educational opportunities for our students to learn about healthy diets and sustainable food systems through practice and school culture.”

On February 24, 2020 the Vancouver Board of Education unanimously passed the following motion:

That the Vancouver Board of Education (VBE) support the work of the Coalition for Healthy School Food by formally endorsing the organization and its call for the development of a universal cost-shared School Food program for Canada.

In the letter that they sent to the Coalition they added: “By endorsing the Coalition for Healthy School Food, the Vancouver Board of Education acknowledges the great work of your organization towards the goal of a universal, cost-shared School Food Program for Canada. On a related note, the Vancouver Board of Education is beginning a visioning process for food programs and operations with the creation of an ad hoc committee. A key component of this visioning will be consideration of how to prepare for the eventuality of a universal school food program. “

And on February 13 2020, the City of Victoria passed a motion endorsing the efforts of the Coalition for Healthy School Food to advocate for a universal, cost-shared healthy school food program.

We applaud the recent initiatives of the Annapolis Community Health Board, City of Vancouver, Toronto District School Board, Vancouver Board of Education and City of Victoria and we encourage our members and municipal champions to reach out to City Councillors, School Trustees, municipal staff board of health community members and suggest that they follow the increasing number of municipalities, school boards and community health boards that are expressing support for a national universal healthy school food program.

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