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Ontario Student Nutrition Program Roundtable with Minister Parsa

On July 7th, 2023, representatives from across Ontario met virtually and in-person at Queen’s Park to discuss opportunities to improve Ontario's Student Nutrition Program (SNP). This meeting was attended by Minister Parsa and MPP Kanapathi (Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services), MPP Barnes (Ministry of Education), as well as ADMs, directors and staff from each ministry.

Roundtable participants included community-based SNP providers, provincial food and logistics and community development coordinators, supply chain and procurement experts, representatives from Student Nutrition Ontario and the Coalition for Healthy School Food, the Ontario agri-food sector, as well as school food philanthropists.

Participants shared inspiring stories, successful and innovative models, and long-term visions of how the province can expand from its strong foundation to build robust and well-supported programs. Participants concluded their statements by sharing short- and medium-term recommendations for improving the Student Nutrition Program in Ontario.

Specifically, participants shared ideas to support better efficiency, partnerships and program impact. Some of the recommendations shared by Coalition members included:

  • Increasing SNP funding for the 2023-24 school year and seeing a core increase to the annual SNP allocation in Budget 2024 to cover current funding needs associated with rising food costs, increased demand, and other program expenses as well as improvement opportunities (e.g., paid staff, infrastructure, food hubs/procurement & delivery; culturally appropriate foods; consolidated production models; farm to school and summer programs, etc.).

  • Allowing for more flexibility in how provincial funding is be spent (i.e. to allow it to cover more than food)

  • Working with the federal government on the national program, including key actions that Ontario could take to move this recommendation forward.

  • Collaborating with EDU and other relevant Ministries by setting up a cross-ministry working group to explore partnership opportunities to advance Ontario SNPs; and involving key stakeholders in the working group.

  • Developing a common and consistent data tracking and reporting framework.

  • Supporting public awareness and knowledge of the value of school food programs, including encouraging MPPs across Ontario to visit programs to see their value first hand.

  • Partnering with academics to collect and share the health and other benefits that arise from school food programs.

  • Revising Ontario’s Nutrition Guidelines to strongly discourage ultra-processed foods; encourage policies that ensure marketing to kids is not taking place.

Claire Kealey Schad and Peter Kendall from the Schad Foundation, who were instrumental in setting up the SNP roundtable, organized and facilitated the July 7th meeting. Members of the Coalition want to thank them for their on-going support for SNPs in the province and for their great commitment to working collaboratively to advance this issue.

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