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The Power of Student Voice

Updated: Jul 11

On June 20th, 2024, the federal government launched its National School Food Policy. What was remarkable is that PM Trudeau and Deputy PM and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland launched the Policy at schools where students had written them letters.

Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jenna Sudds, and Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser joined students, teachers and community leaders at Northumberland High School to launch the Policy. Check out the Prime Minister’s speech here.

This school was chosen because the students had been active in writing letters to let the federal government know why they wanted a National School Food Program. Read more about the Karma Closet and the student’s letter writing here.

Demonstrating the power of students’ advocacy, the Prime Minister wanted to meet the students who had written the letters. It was a fabulous afternoon, with everyone seeing firsthand the amazing dream team at Northumberland Regional High School -- Service and Culinary Trades students, Karma Closet volunteers, visionary teacher Karen Berezowski, Chef Heighton’s leadership and produce grown by teacher Kelly Timmons’ Agriculture 11 class that makes a regular appearance in the new salad bar.

Hours later, at the launch at Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver, BC, Minister Freeland shared how moved she was by the student letters sent to the federal government. 

When teacher Brent Mansfied ran 200 laps at Parliament in November (see blog here), he delivered close to 1000 letters from students from across Canada to the Prime Minister. Minister Freeland read some of the students’ letters describing why school food matters to them. You can see Minister Freeland’s speech here, including:

“This is from someone in grade 7: “An investment in healthy school food is a good idea because the healthier the kids, the healthier the society. School food matters to me because kids should be healthy.””

“Here is from another grade 7: “I am a Hungarian student. An investment in school food is a good idea because it can lighten the load for parents. School food matters to me because I can focus a lot better while not hungry.””

Later in the day there was an announcement in Montreal-North hosted by Coalition member Les Fourchettes de l'Espoir. Minister of National Revenue, Marie-Claude Bibeau and the Minister of Employment, Manpower Development and Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault spoke about the importance of implementing the National School Food Program for health and success at school for all Canadian children and were joined by our colleague at the Collectif québécois - CHSF Quebec Chapter, Eva Sabouko, Mobilization and Communications Coordinator and Marie-Josée Lapratte, Chief, Governmental and Municipal Relations, at Breakfast Club of Canada.

What these visits demonstrate is that stories matter. We have a great opportunity to support students who want to make their voices heard about what kinds of food programs they want to see in their schools and why they expect politicians to do the right thing and support quality school food programs.

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