Canada’s Federal Government Pledges to Launch a National School Food Program

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Canada’s Federal Government Pledges to Launch a National School Food Program

In a landmark move aimed at addressing childhood hunger and improving nutrition for youth across Canada, the federal government announced its intention to launch a national school food program earlier this week. As the only G7 country and one of the only Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries without a national school food program, Canada has relied on a patchwork of charitable efforts that address food security and child hunger but fall short in addressing their root causes or implementing structural changes needed to build sustainable, self-reliant food systems.

students lining up in cafeteria line to get soup

Canada's commitment to invest $1 billion over five years in a new national school food program represents a significant stride toward addressing disparities in food security. The program, which is to be included in the upcoming April budget, could begin as soon as the upcoming school year and is expected to provide meals to 400,000 children.

Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC) is proud to be part of a consortium of Indigenous-led or Indigenous-serving organizations that, for decades, have worked to support Indigenous food security and food sovereignty. Collectively, we hold deep, trusted relationships with over 180 Indigenous Nations and communities across Canada. As a member of the Coalition for Healthy School Food and Co-Chair of the Indigenous School Food Circle, CFTC has long been at the forefront of advocating for a nationally-funded school food program.

In Canada, 1 in 3 elementary school students and 2 in 3 secondary school students risk going to school hungry. Through our programs and partnerships across Canada, we have witnessed firsthand the transformative impact that nutritious meals can have on children's lives, unlocking their full potential and paving the way for a brighter future. With donor support, CFTC provided 342,775 meals and snacks to 6,025 children across Canada last year.


This is a huge win for CFTC and our partner communities as we work together to improve the overall well-being of Indigenous children and their families. A nationally-funded school meal program will contribute to overall food security within our partner communities and beyond.
Sydney Richards, CFTC's Director of Indigenous Programs and Partnerships

COMMUNITIES SEE THE DIFFERENCE SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMS CAN MAKE FOR CHILDREN

a little girl stands in a field

Seeing the importance of having good food on hand, Scarlette and her friends on student council implemented a snack program to ensure no classmate goes without food in the day.

Community members have shared their observations regarding the positive effects of school nutrition programs on students' well-being. Leaders from our partner community of Natoaganeg First Nation (Eel Ground First Nation) noted the significant improvement in students' mental health, stating that “breakfast time provides an opportunity for children to start the day on the right foot and reset their emotions.”

Staff from the school in O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation also shared that “students are eager to come to school knowing they will get a proper and healthy lunch. You can see the changes in the attitude of the kids. They seem to be less disruptive and stay focused on their work. The kids know they will not go hungry and [their] expressions when served fresh, healthy food say it all.

The program also alleviates the burden of rising food costs on families. Scarlette, a nine-year-old in Elsipogtog First Nation, recognizes how important the school food program is for her family. “My dad, he works on a boat, and my mom works at home. I don’t really like asking my mom to do stuff because she really needs to work. So that’s what I like about breakfast at school – I don’t need to try to make it myself or I don’t need to make my parents make it for me,” she tells us.


A HUGE WIN FOR CHILDREN NATIONWIDE

a little boy smiles while enjoying his lunchWhile celebrating this historic announcement, it is important to acknowledge that school food is one facet of a comprehensive journey to achieving food security. At CFTC, we believe in taking a holistic, multi-pronged approach, integrating all elements of food systems to overcome systemic barriers to adequate nutrition. Our initiatives in Indigenous communities across Canada are specifically designed to align with broader community objectives, including capacity-building for local food systems transformation, nutrition education, land-based learning in addition to school nutrition.

Our Director of Indigenous Programs and Partnerships, Sydney Richards, tells us: “Monday's announcement is a monumental step forward for Canadians and addressing food security within our country. This announcement is a result of countless hours of planning, connecting and advocating by many passionate people. This is a huge win for CFTC and our partner communities as we work together to improve the overall well-being of Indigenous children and their families. A nationally-funded school meal program will contribute to overall food security within our partner communities and beyond. Over the next coming months, we are excited to see how this investment will support Indigenous nations across Canada and contribute to restoring food sovereignty.

A national school food program in all schools in Canada will make a world of difference for children and their families. At CFTC, we eagerly anticipate supporting this initiative as we are uniquely positioned to support our Indigenous partners to respond to food security issues arising from the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, conflict, inflation, and climate change. We remain steadfast in our commitment to a community-led approach to meeting the unique needs and aspirations of each community to foster long-term, sustainable change.

a school lunch comprised of soup, bun, and milk cartonWe commend the federal government for its commitment to prioritizing children's nutrition and investing in their future and look forward to collaborating alongside our partners to ensure no child is left behind and that every child has access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate food.