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Release of the National School Food Policy!

June 20, 2024, will be remembered as another historic day for Canadian children and youth. After including a $1 billion commitment over five years in its April 16 budget to launch a National School Food Program, the Government of Canada released its much-anticipated National School Food Policy today (link here). The Coalition for Healthy School Food, on behalf of our 320+ members and 140+ endorsers, congratulates the government on this important milestone towards a national school food program, which will allow us to build a strong Canada-wide school food program over time. We are very pleased at how closely the Policy aligns with the Coalition’s 8 Guiding Principles and recommendations, which we have developed based on research and best practices from Canada and around the world. 


Below is some of the content of the Policy and some reflections from the Coalition (the language in blue is text directly from the Policy): 


The Policy states that it was informed by its 2022/23 public consultations (summarized in the National School Food Policy Engagements - What We Heard Report) as well as a review of research, data and best practices.


The Policy shares the many benefits of school food programs relating to health, education, wellbeing, sustainable food systems, community economic development, food literacy and return on investment, in line with the Coalition’s reports and submissions (pages 8-10).


The Coalition’s image of the potential of school food programs to advance the Sustainable Development Goals is displayed on page 12!


National School Food Policy Vision (page 14): “That all children and youth in Canada have access to nutritious food at school, in an inclusive, non-stigmatizing environment that fosters healthy practices, while strengthening connections with local food systems, the environment and culture.”

The Coalition is pleased to see the emphasis on all children and youth as well as the focus on non-stigmatizing, health-promoting practices, support for local food systems, the environment and culture in line with our guiding principles and statements.


National School Food Policy Principles (page 14): 

  • Accessible: Children and youth can participate in school food programs without stigma or barriers. 

  • Health promoting: Food served is consistent with healthy eating recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide, and children and youth are supported in developing healthful food-related behaviours and attitudes, as well as food and nutrition knowledge and skills. 

  • Inclusive: Children and youth have access to culturally appropriate, relevant and inclusive school food programs that engage students and the broader community. 

  • Flexible: Food is locally sourced where possible and reflective of local and regional circumstances. 

  • Sustainable: Programs are designed to be environmentally sustainable, and adequately resourced.

  • Accountable: Consistent and transparent monitoring and evaluation to ensure that programs are achieving policy objectives. Again, we are very pleased to see all of these statements, which are very much in line with the Coalition’s Guiding Principles.


National School Food Policy Objectives (pages 15-17):

Work progressively towards the long-term goal of universal access

  • This Objective speaks of working to continuously build on and expand programs to communities, particularly where they are underserved or where communities and populations face barriers to accessing nutritious food, as well as offering meals “in an environment designed to minimize or eliminate stigma”.

Expand investment in school food so that programs can operate sustainably

  • This Objective speaks of enhancing and expanding funding and exploring how different funding models could be implemented, the need to support investments in infrastructure and staffing, and “taking action to encourage sustainable practices”.

Help children meet their nutritional and health needs, develop healthful food-related behaviours and attitudes, as well as food and nutrition knowledge and skills

  • This Objective speaks about “ aligning meals, snacks, experiences, and education with Canada’s Food Guide and provincial or territorial nutrition guidelines”, supporting age-appropriate and hands-on learning opportunities “related to food, nutrition, and/or food systems” and the development of food skills, and “safeguarding against marketing food and beverage brands and highly processed foods and beverages to children and increasing awareness of the impacts of food marketing on food choice”.

Promote programming that is culturally appropriate, relevant, and inclusive

  • This Objective speaks about supporting programming that enables children to learn about other cultures, ensuring that programs are culturally appropriate, involving students in menu planning and food preparation where possible, and involving students, parents and the community.

Create opportunities for local economies and reflect of local and regional circumstances

  • This Objective speaks to “Maximizing opportunities to source food locally and foster connections with local food producers, hunters and harvesters, processors, and suppliers”, supporting local economies, ensuring supportive partnerships, and supporting “the participation of under-represented groups in the Canadian agriculture and food sector”.


With regards to next steps the Policy states that it will continue to collaborate with partners from across Canada, including close collaboration with provinces and territories as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, to advance the Policy’s vision. In closing the Policy states that “The Government of Canada will work with other orders of government, partners and stakeholders to explore ways to improve access to information on school food programming, report on progress, and share best practices.


We look forward to working in every province and territory to help ensure that agreements with the provinces and territories are negotiated and signed as quickly as possible so that programs across the country can immediately get to the work of helping more children and youth access nutritious food during their school day.


The Coalition is proud to have been part of the movement for school food in Canada that has informed this Policy, and we are pleased to be able to work with the Government of Canada, provinces and territories, and Indigenous leadership in the months and years ahead to advance the Policy’s Vision “That all children and youth in Canada have access to nutritious food at school, in an inclusive, non-stigmatizing environment that fosters healthy practices, while strengthening connections with local food systems, the environment and culture.”


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