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Next step for a National School Food Program Post-Budget 2024: Look to the Premiers

Updated: Apr 17

OTTAWA, April 16, 2024 - The Coalition for Healthy School Food, a network of over 450 organizational members and endorsers, applauds the federal government for committing to new spending of $1 billion over five years for a National School Food Program in its fiscal budget released on Tuesday.

“We are pleased that the federal government has joined the other G7 countries and, in fact, most countries in the world, in acknowledging the importance of investing in a national school food program”, said Debbie Field, National Coordinator for the Coalition for Healthy School Food. 

"Now that the federal government has done its part, we need provinces and territories to do theirs. We urge all premiers in each province and territory to sign on to the federal government's new policy and to provide more nutritious, culturally appropriate, sustainable and affordable food to schoolchildren all across Canada as soon as possible. We need everyone to work together to make sure that our kids are set up to succeed." 

Since 2023, many provinces and territories have significantly increased their funding for school food programs, including $214 million over three years in British Columbia, $30 million annually committed by Manitoba, and $18.8 million by Nova Scotia, which could scale up to $100 million annually in future years. In the coming months, it is expected that the federal government will look to the provinces and territories to sign agreements similar to the Early Learning and Child Care Agreements made in the 2021 Budget to receive federal funding. These agreements will leverage additional commitments from those provinces and territories that are not providing as much of an investment as others. 

Carolyn Webb, Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator with the Coalition for Healthy School Food, said: “Federal leadership will not only provide and leverage much-needed funding for a national school food program, but it will also support Canada-wide data collection, ensure that healthy, quality food is consistently served, and really allow school food programs to meet their potential.” 

“The federal investment will mean that many more children will be able to access a healthy meal at school”, said Amberley T. Ruetz, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Saskatchewan. “It will increase children’s consumption of healthy foods, help more students be ready to learn and succeed at school, and reduce those children’s risk of chronic disease. This investment will also help families save on their grocery bills, support working families, especially working mothers, and benefit local food producers.”

Marissa Alexander, co-Executive Director of Food Secure Canada adds “Well-designed school food programs help Canada to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including health, education, gender equality, sustainability and local livelihood goals. With federal funding on the table, we will continue to advocate for national school food policy and community standards that deliver multiple benefits, always respecting self-determined Indigenous programming and diverse food cultures.”

Since its establishment in 2014, the Coalition for Healthy School Food has been advocating for dedicated funding for school food programs in Indigenous communities. The Coalition is waiting with anticipation to learn more about these details. 

The Coalition offers its thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jenna Sudds, the former Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and current Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Karina Gould as well as countless other members of parliament from all political parties and other federal decision-makers who have made this investment possible. 

A national school food program will join universal child care and the Canada Child Benefit as crucial family supports, just as universal healthcare and publicly-funded K-12 education have transformed Canadian lives over the past several decades. 

About the Coalition for Healthy School Food

The Coalition for Healthy School Food’s 298 member organizations, 140 endorsers including organizations, agencies and municipalities, and thousands of supporters from across Canada, including active school food providers, academics, and experts, advocate for the creation of a universal cost-shared school food program for Canada that would see all K-12 students having daily access to healthy food at school. Building on existing programs across the country, the Coalition envisions that all schools will eventually serve a healthy meal or snack at little or no cost to students. These programs will include food education and serve culturally appropriate, local, sustainable food to the fullest extent possible. See our guiding principles for what our ideal school food program looks like.

For more information

Debbie Field National Coordinator Coalition for Healthy School Food 416-537-6856

Carolyn Webb (available for French and English interviews) Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator

Coalition for Healthy School Food 613-852-7709

Community Organizations and Coalition Members available for comment

Academics available for comment

  • Rachel Engler-Stringer, Professor & Co-Chair of CAFS School Food Working Group, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan,, 306-380-4135

  • Amberley T. Ruetz, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow & Co-Chair of CAFS School Food Working Group, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan,, 519–902-7977.

  • Sara Kirk, Professor, Health Promotion, School of Health and Human Performance,, 902-494-8440

  • Jennifer Black, Associate Professor, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Food, Nutrition and Health, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus, 

  • Gary Hoyer, Professor of Business and Hospitality Management and a Program Coordinator at George Brown College,, 416-834-7059

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