The Coalition for Healthy School Food is excited to share that there is support for school food programs across the different political parties. With an election on Monday we see no slowing down to the #NourishKidsNow momentum that has been growing over the last year!
At the Federal level:
During this election campaign, we’ve been hearing commitments and support for school food across party lines. Nourishing Canadian students is an issue that everyone can get behind.
The NDP became the first national political party to cost out a school food program. The NDP Fiscal Plan commits $200 million to a “Healthy Meal Program for Children” in 2020-21, growing to $300 million in 2024, The NDP platform, on page 61, states: "New Democrats will partner with provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous communities to work towards a national school nutrition program that will give every child in Canada access to healthy food, and the food literacy skills to make healthy choices for life”.
The Green party platform, on page 38, states: “We support the focus on increasing access to healthy food including a national school lunch program”. In a follow-up question from Food Secure Canada the Green Party has stated that they “will establish a federally funded, community-guided school lunch program across Canada to make sure that our children have daily access to healthy local food and are able to focus fully on their education. We would envisage this happening within four Years.”
In response to Food Secure Canada and Dietitians of Canada questions, the Liberal Party reconfirmed their commitment, made earlier this year in the Liberal government’s March 2019 budget, to work with provinces and territories towards the creation of a National School Food Program.
In response to Food Secure Canada questions, the Bloc Québécois responded that school food is a provincial matter and that they would be seeking more transfers for education and social services for Quebec and the provinces.
While it has not appeared in the Conservative Party platform, a number of Conservative Party candidates have expressed their support for the concept of providing good, healthy food in schools with several Conservative MPs committing to a national cost-shared program.
School food programs have been discussed at a number of Eat Think Vote events, with candidates from all major political parties expressing their support for some form of school food program.
At an Eat Think Vote event in Halifax, which you can read more about in this Chronicle Herald article, Liberal candidate Andy Fillmore said they are consulting with provinces, territories and not-for-profit organizations to “figure out what a national school food program looks like so we can help kids to be healthy and learn better.”
Read about the Local Community Food Centre’s first all-candidates debate in Stratford in this Beacon Herald article, where candidates discussed a National School Food Program.
Candidates were also asked about a National School Food Program at Guelph’s Eat Think Vote event in August, where the NDP, Liberal and Green candidates in attendance offered enthusiastic support. Green candidate Steve Dyck shared, “We need a national school food program. America has it, a lot of reasons why people do this. It’s quite embarrassing that we don’t have one. Studies show that if children are hungry, their brains aren’t ready to receive information”. Conservative candidate, Ashish Sachan, offered a written response after the event, which concluded: ”Considering children are the bearers of the future of Canada and its leadership role in the World, the importance of healthy children (given the long term negative effects of childhood food insecurity) cannot be overstated.”
On the Provincial front:
In recent months, newly elected Conservative governments in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have all continued to support provincial funding of school food programs at the same level as their predecessors. And the new Conservative government in PEI has committed to building on the previous government’s pilots to create an expanded program:
The Conservative Alberta government reaffirmed $15.5 Million in support for the 2019-20 school year for a school nutrition program that had been committed by their previous NDP government. The Education Minister Adriana LaGrange told Global News in this article, “I really understand how good nutrition impacts our children and so, it was very important to me to bring that forward and I had the full support of my colleagues”. Update: The provincial government’s October 24, 2019, budget committed $15.5 Million for the school nutrition program that goes to schools and another $3 Million for non-profit groups.
In November 2018 the former Liberal government in PEI announced plans for a healthy school food pilot, with Ministers from all parties giving speeches in support of the policy. When a new Conservative government came into power the program launch was at first delayed but last week, on October 11, 2019, the Premier included in the Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning’s Mandate Letter that the Minister was to "Work with your colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Land to develop and implement a fulsome provincial school food program building on recent pilot success". The Coalition is optimistic that the program will be one that greatly advances the health and wellbeing of students in PEI.
We’re heartened by all of the federal candidates who are in favour of developing a National School Food Program and look forward to working with the new government to build on what has already been started! Key next steps for our incoming government will include placing this investment in the Minister of Health’s Mandate Letter and providing funding for a National School Food program in the 2020 budget.
As the proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and the Coalition is encouraged to find support across parties for healthy school food!