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Watching Momentum Grow for Ontario Bill 216 - the Food Literacy for Students Act

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

On October 2020 Ontario MPP Daryl Kramp introduced Bill 216, the Food Literacy for Students Act in the Ontario Legislature. If passed, this landmark piece of legislation will mandate food literacy education in every grade in Ontario schools.

Within days of being introduced the bill passed its first and second readings in the Ontario Legislature and it is now moving forward for discussion at the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.

Bill 216 has come to fruition thanks to the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Food Policy Council, who first brought the idea to their local MPP in 2017.

The KFL&A Food Policy Council have been working with MPP Kramp to draft the bill and are currently collecting endorsements from organizations and health professionals in the province as well as across the country to ensure that the bill successfully passes its third and final reading.

  • We encourage our members and any others who are passionate about the health and wellbeing of our children to endorse the bill through the KFL&A Food Policy Council website (you can see the other 50+ organizational endorsers there) and to write to Daryl Kramp and the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly in support of the bill using the KFL&A FPC’s template or by using the Sustain Ontario letter as a model.

  • We encourage decision-makers at all levels to explore how federal efforts to develop a national school food program could align with provincial and territorial efforts to support food literacy.

  • We encourage provincial and territorial decision-makers to explore how this bill could be replicated in all provinces and territories so that food literacy can complement school food meal programs everywhere.

In 2018 a team of researchers published The case for a Canadian national school food program and shared that a best practice for school food programs is to work towards integration with curricula to incorporate food literacy, nutrition education and food skills so that students are involved with school food programs through hands-on food growing, preparation, budgeting, management and other learning to foster experiential learning (learning by doing). In 2020 Generating Success for Farm to School made the compelling argument to establish a National School Food Program complemented with the farm to school approach (healthy local food, hands-on learning and food literacy, and school and community connectedness) to support the health and wellbeing of students.

The Coalition for Healthy School Food has been in support of this comprehensive approach for some time. In June 2018 we were invited to appear as a witness to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Re: the Canada Food Guide Study. In our presentation and submission we shared that “Our members are also seeing that meals and snacks can greatly complement and be complemented by gardening, cooking, food system learning, and overall school food culture transformation. These approaches are ways that the proposed Food Guide’s emphasis on a comprehensive approach can be put into practice.”

We have seen the integration of meal programs and food literacy education play out in practice from coast to coast to coast in a variety of ways and settings. Many stories from across the country can be accessed through the Farm to Cafeteria Canada blog.

The research and programs that are being implemented show a clear trend: that food literacy education can only strengthen the health and wellbeing of our children and would be a strong complement to a national school food program (this is demonstrated visually in the Potential of School Food Initiatives diagram).

While food literacy is currently seen as an issue related to the exclusive responsibility that provincial and territorial governments have for education, we know that the advancement of food literacy initiatives like Ontario bill 216 will only strengthen efforts in Canada to advance the universal cost-shared healthy national school food program that the Coalition is advocating for.

More about the origins of, rationale for and reception to bill 216:

Bill 216, an Ontario private member’s bill, was introduced on October 19, 2020, proposing that:

“The Education Act is amended to provide that curriculum guidelines shall require that courses of study be developed in experiential food literacy education and healthy eating for every grade from grade 1 through grade 12. The courses of study must ensure that students are given opportunities to grow food, prepare food and learn about local foods. Every board is required to provide instruction in the courses of study and to provide training and support for teachers and other staff of the board. Completion of the courses of study are a requirement for obtaining the Ontario secondary school diploma, the secondary school graduation diploma and the secondary school honour graduation diploma.”

A November 2020 article in the Kingston Whig-Standard shares why the bill’s authors are hopeful for its future:

“I think it’s very groundbreaking,” Sarah Keyes, one of the bill’s original authors, told the Whig-Standard. “If we can get this through, we will be the first province to have such a food literacy curriculum. We know it’s so important … we think that this is an essential part of being able to grow up to be healthy and to make healthy food choices.”

MPP Kramp shares in the same article that he is “encouraged by the phenomenal reception we’ve had from across the political, personal, private and industrial spectrum,” including from the health, education and agriculture sectors.

Sarah Keyes also discussed the bill on CBC’s Ontario Morning on November 16th – listen here, starting at 31:41.

The Coalition is excited to see this fantastic example of how school food policy can be developed collaboratively between community organizations and government decision-makers We look forward to witnessing important next steps in implementation once the Bill has been passed and seeing how this initiative, like others across the country, will strengthen the movement for a universal cost-shared healthy national school food program.

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