Coalition disappointed in lack of federal investment in school food, but confident that the government will honour its commitment
The Coalition for Healthy School Food (the Coalition) is disappointed that there was no funding for school food in Budget 2023. Combined with lack of funding increases in many recent provincial budgets, school food programs across Canada will continue to struggle to meet growing demands this year.
Over the next year, the Coalition looks forward to working with the Government of Canada to develop a National School Food Policy and an implementation plan to ensure successful rollout of a School Food Program for Canada as pledged in two federal election platforms in 2021 and as included in two Ministerial mandate letters.
MONTREAL, QC, March 31, 2023 – Knowing how important school food programs are to children, their families and communities, the Coalition and its members are disappointed that there was no funding for school food programs in Budget 2023. The Coalition is confident, however, that the federal government will honour its commitment to implement a School Food Program for Canada.
The Coalition and its more than 250 organizational members are particularly frustrated as increasing costs of food are putting many school food programs in jeopardy. As a result of more program users and skyrocketing food costs, countless school food programs across the country are reporting they may need to close before the end of the school year because their annual program funds have been spent.
“In a budget of billions of dollars, wise social policy would have included the Liberal election platform’s $1 billion commitment over five years to advance a national school food program,” shares Debbie Field, Coordinator of the Coalition. “An investment in school food programs would have meant that more children and youth, from coast to coast to coast, would be able to enjoy a healthy breakfast, lunch and/or snack at school, which would benefit their health and capacity to learn. Such an investment would also have reduced pressures on families’ budgets.”
The Coalition is also bracing for the negative implications of no increases to core school funding in recent Ontario and Nova Scotia budgets, and insufficient recent increases in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick budgets. It is urging all provincial and territorial governments to make substantial increases to school food funding tied to higher food costs. The historic investment of $214 million in BC is an example of what provinces and territories can and should do.
"Without new federal funding, in addition to the recent increase in food prices, organizations like ours providing meals to thousands of students daily are counting even more on provincial support this year,” said Thibaud Liné, executive director at La Cantine pour tous. “Members of the Coalition are urging provinces and territories, including Québec, to increase their current funding as school food providers are ready to expand their much-needed programs. All students should have access to healthy meals, regardless of their parents’ financial means.”
Improving children’s access to nutritious food has wide-spread benefits to their physical health, mental health, future eating habits, behaviour, and school performance. School food programs also have broad, positive impacts on families, communities, and the economy by reducing household food costs, creating jobs, and strengthening sustainable local food systems.
"We look forward to seeing how school food programs will continue to strive towards health promotion in how they are implemented, and how they will be supported to bring in locally grown foods, including Indigenous traditional foods," said Sydney Richards, Manager of Indigenous Partnerships & Programs at Canadian Feed the Children, member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee, and Co-Chair of the Indigenous School Food Circle. "We ask the federal government to honour their commitment to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples by prioritizing Indigenous food sovereignty in these programs, as well as by negotiating agreements for independent distinctions-based school meal programs with Indigenous leaders."
The Coalition is confident that the momentum will only continue to build towards the development of a strong School Food Program for Canada. The federal government will soon share what it heard from the public consultations held in 2022 and is actively working on the development of a National School Food Policy. The Coalition is looking forward to supporting these initiatives and is urging the government to move quickly over the next year to negotiate agreements with provinces and territories, First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders, and provide funding as soon as possible.
The development of a school food program for Canada has widespread public support. Over 140,000 people in Canada, including many school children, took part in the Great Big Crunch throughout March to show their support for healthy school food.
For more information:
Coalition for Healthy School Food
Coalition for Healthy School Food
The Coalition for Healthy School Food is a network of over 250 non-profit member organizations from every province and territory advocating 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.