Eating a healthy diet is critically important, especially for children; it leads to short- and long-term health benefits, increases academic performance, and sets up healthy habits for a lifetime.
To ensure all Canadian children are receiving these benefits, a universal and comprehensive National School Food Program is a critical step in providing children with healthy, safe food, reducing child and household food insecurity, teaching food skills, and supporting local food systems.
- Nutrition education should be required in K–12 curricula, with a focus on hands-on food literacy, school policies, and meal programs.
- Any development of a national level program to promote healthy eating habits among children and teens should be integrated and comprehensive, meaning:
- healthy eating habits are included in the curricula, and also modelled and supported through policies and hands-on food skills programs in schools;
- local communities, school administrations and indigenous communities continue to have autonomy; and
- universally-available to all students
- sufficiently funded and supported with the necessary physical infrastructure and human resources.
- Policy actions can contribute to this goal, including:
- Convening cross-ministry working groups to provide comprehensive support to school food programs;
- harmonized nutrition standards that are fully implemented, monitored and regularly evaluated;
- enhancing current curriculum and training.
Time for Action: Critical next steps to create a National School Food Program
The need for a federal school food program is clear; in 2017, UNICEF ranked Canada as 37th out of the 41 wealthiest nations for access to healthy food.
We would like to extend special thanks to Clarity Hub, Alice Raine, Elizabeth Shantz, Alysa JK Loring, and the University of Guelph for administrative support. The Spotlight projects have been developed with the Research Innovation Office at the University of Guelph.