National school food program needed

Photo: Canadian children are not provided consistent access to healthy food at school, Diana Bronson and Sasha McNicoll write. (JENNIFER BAIN/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

Canadian children return to school with insufficient access to healthy food

Mon., Aug. 28, 2017

As children across the country go back to school, a recent UNICEF report ranked Canada 37th out of 41 high-income countries around access to nutritious food for children, below the United States and just over Bulgaria, Malta, Turkey and Mexico. As a country trying to position itself as a world leader, whose government is focused on children and families, this is unacceptable and presents us with a clear imperative to improve.

The Canadian companion to the report recommends a national school food program as a solution. Canada is one of the only Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries without one, and Canadian children are not provided consistent access to healthy food at school, where they spend more than half their waking hours.

In the report from his 2012 mission to Canada, then United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food Olivier de Schutter recommended the adoption of a national children and food strategy that would include support for school food programs. In countries such as Finland, France and Japan, all of which score highly in the report, schoolchildren are fed well-balanced meals daily, are often served by their peers, and eat with adults who teach them about the value of nutrition and healthy diets.

The good news is that Canada is in a unique position to repair this deplorable situation and to catch up with other OECD countries in ensuring access to nutritious food in schools across the country. The federal government is currently developing both a national food policy that will identify actions for food-related health and social goals and a social innovation and social finance strategy to “achieve positive solutions to persistent social problems.” READ MORE

Diana Bronson is executive director of Food Secure Canada.
Sasha McNicoll is co-ordinator of Coalition for Healthy School Food.

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