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Why the Coalition is calling for a Universal, Healthy School Food Program for Canada

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

As the federal government designs the best possible school food program for Canada, they will have to decide on a targeted or universal approach. Here's our recommendation, which you'll also find in the FAQ section of our website.

Coalition members believe that a national school food program should be Universal.

This means that, where a program is in place, all students in the school would have access to the meal or snack that is offered.

There are a variety of reasons why a child may have missed breakfast or a meal. Meal skipping and short-term hunger impact children across all socio-economics classes and children come to school hungry for many reasons, as is shown in the infographic to the right, developed by Nourish Nova Scotia.

Research and experience show us that targeted programs (i.e. those that are only offered to students whose families meet a low income threshold) increase parental resistance to a program and reduce student participation because of the associated stigma.

In a research study by Raine, K., McIntyre, L., & Dayle, J. B. (2010), only a minority of the intended target population was actually reached and the test programs largely failed in their expressed mandate to feed hungry children. Targeted programs also require significant expenses to assess student eligibility and have proven to not be successful in meeting broader health goals.

A universal school food program would provide equitable and dignified access to healthy food for children and provide some support to low income families. However, it would not be a replacement for needed income supports for the unacceptable number of Canadians living in poverty.

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