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.