A national healthy school food program has the potential create thousands of new jobs in communities across Canada.
When local food is served, the local multiplier of the increased local food purchases will impact regional food production, household and business earnings, long-term gross domestic product, and part-time jobs created or sustained.
FoodShare/Laura Berman/Greenfuse Photography
School food programs increase the consumption
of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods
why it matters
School food programs support student health and wellness and
school and community connectedness
Show Kids You Care
School food programs contribute to student learning and success
School food programs can support local farmers and the economy by increasing jobs and procuring local food
Canada remains one of the few industrialized countries without a national school food program. Canada’s current patchwork of school food programming reaches only a small percentage of our over five million students.
Studies have shown that school food programs can contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular events and chronic disease such as stroke, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer by increasing the intake of vegetables, whole grains, and macro- and micro-nutrients.
Research from northern Ontario and British Columbia found that students who participated in a school food program reported higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and lower intakes of “other” (i.e., non-nutritious) foods.
Students who participate in school food programs consume more fibre and micronutrients, and consume less saturated and trans fat, sodium and added sugars.
School food programs have been linked with positive impacts on children’s mental health, including reductions in behavioural and emotional problems, bullying, aggression, anxiety, and depression, as well as fewer visits to the school nurse.
Children who eat a morning meal are sick less often, have fewer problems associated with hunger, such as dizziness, lethargy, headaches, stomachaches and earaches, and do significantly better than their peers in terms of cooperation, discipline, and interpersonal relations.
An evaluation of a morning meal program in the Toronto District School Board found that students who consume a morning meal most days show at least a 10% increase in skills such as independent academic work, initiative, conflict resolution, class participation and problem-solving at school.
When children attend school hungry or undernourished their energy levels, memory, problem-solving skills, creativity, concentration, and other cognitive functions are all negatively impacted. They are also more likely to repeat a grade.
Food insecurity is an urgent public health challenge in Canada, affecting 1.15 million—or one in six—Canadian children under age 18. Not all populations are affected the same. Over two in three Inuit children experience food insecurity, where the household food insecurity rate for Inuit is the highest amongst any Aboriginal population living in an industrialized country.
Canada was ranked 37th out of 41 countries when it comes to providing healthy food for kids.
Only about one-third of children between the ages of four and 13 years eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruit daily.
About one-quarter of children's calorie intakes are from food products not recommended in Canada's Food Guide.
One-third of students in elementary schools and two-thirds of students in secondary schools do not eat a nutritious breakfast before school.
HEALTHY EATING CHALLENGES
School food programs across the country are helping to turn the tide of unhealthy eating in children. A national school food program can address these issues and more.