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Petition e-4586: Government response disappointing and lacks commitment

In September, the Coalition for Healthy School Food submitted a House of Commons Petition to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to call upon the Government of Canada to meet its platform commitment by providing $1 billion over 5 years for school food with an immediate investment of $200 million in Budget 2024. This investment, negotiated with provinces, territories and Indigenous leaders, would help children develop the food and nutrition habits they need to lead healthy lives and succeed at school. 

On Tuesday, December 12th, the Government of Canada provided its official response to the petition: 

“ The Government of Canada is committed to working with the provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners, and key stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and explore how more children in Canada can receive nutritious food at school. Work to fulfill this commitment is ongoing and remains a key priority.
To advance and inform this work, the government has and continues to engage with a broad range of stakeholders from across Canada, including through bilateral conversations and roundtables, and has also sought the views of Canadians through an online questionnaire. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development has also visited school food programs and met with stakeholders in many communities across Canada.
Through these engagement activities, we have gained a better understanding of the current school food landscape, as well as views on principles and objectives that could shape a National School Food Policy. Stakeholders highlighted that school meal programs can have multiple social, health, environmental and economic benefits and can play a role in increasing access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for children, especially those from low-income or food-insecure households.
On October 31, 2023, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food released a “What We Heard” Report that summarizes the views that were shared during these engagements on a National School Food Policy.
While we continue to work with key partners on the development of a National School Food Policy, we recognize that this is a challenging time for many families and that global inflation has made it more difficult to make ends meet. The Government of Canada has taken recent action to deliver inflation relief to Canadians. For example, the Government provided a one-time Grocery Rebate payment that provided eligible couples with two children with up to an extra $467. We also recently proposed amendments to the Competition Act to enhance competition, particularly in the grocery sector.
In addition, the Government of Canada has made significant investments through targeted social programs and income supplements to reduce poverty and increase well-being. This in turn helps improve Canadians’ ability to meet their basic needs, including access to nutritious food.
These programs and benefits include the following:
• the Canada Child Benefit, which provides substantial tax-free income support to families raising children;
• the new Canadian Dental Care Plan;
• the newly expanded Canada Workers Benefit, which supports workers earning lower wages;
• the Employment Insurance program; and
• the creation of a Canada-wide early learning and child care system with a significant reduction in fees.”

We would like to acknowledge the Government of Canada for their efforts to build the social safety net for families across Canada and we urge them to add school food to this list of programs. We see a National School Food Program as an important complement and next step of these policies as it would support families and advance the health and wellbeing of children and youth.

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