Nova Scotia announces work on universal school lunch program

Photo: The Thoughtful Food Project at Musquodoboit Rural High School , Middle Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia

Last week, Nova Scotia’s deputy Minister of Education told MLAs on the Public Accounts Committee that Nova Scotia is “actively working on the development of a universal lunch program that would be free to all children, universally available.” The province serves nearly 130,000 students across 400 schools.

The announcement aligns with the federal government’s mandate to Ministers Bibeau and Gould to “develop a National School Food Policy and work towards a national school nutritious meal program.” It also comes on the heels of a report released in September by the Auditor General of Nova Scotia on the state of healthy eating in schools in the province. While this report highlighted inconsistencies across the province and failure to meet current outdated nutrition policy standards in some areas, it also recognized good work happening in the province as examples to replicate, including work in schools in the South Shore and Annapolis Valley Regional Centres for Education.  

The South Shore has been increasingly recognized in the farm to school space for being a leader in implementing the salad bar model in the province and we’ve been excited to see the enthusiasm for the salad bar grow among school communities across Nova Scotia in recent years. We applaud this recognition from the Auditor General and underscore the importance of these and other comprehensive school meal programs happening across the country that give students an opportunity to access local food at school with choice – creating their own plates, and building their own bowls. These are examples to look to when considering what a National School Food Policy and nutritious meal program could and should look like. 

This recent coverage has also given recognition to important resources like the Local Food Lunch Toolkit. Led by our partners at Nourish Nova Scotia, the toolkit serves as a guide for school lunch programs to serve scratch-made meals sourcing from local farmers and other producers whenever possible. Tools like this will be important in Nova Scotia, and across the country, for supporting successful implementation of school food programs that support both students and community health and wellbeing. 

We encourage federal, provincial and territorial governments to support school meal policies and programs that set targets for local and sustainable procurement and embed hands-on food literacy opportunities for students. We know from our work here at F2CC that the Farm to School Approach gives students more opportunities to learn about the food system around them and to become involved in what’s served in their school. This engagement makes them more likely to try new foods, become more excited about healthy eating and develop food literacy skills for a lifetime of healthy eating. 

  • For examples of farm to school in action in Nova Scotia, read some of our recent grant recipients’ stories including the Try-it Tuesday program at West Hants Middle School; the Thoughtful Food Project at Musquodoboit Rural High School, and this case study on how Kings County Academy transitioned their contracted food service to a PTA-run cafeteria serving scratch-meals that the student kids love. 
  • For more information and recent coverage on this topic in the province, read this op-ed from our partners at Nourish Nova Scotia, and access news articles here and here. 
  • For more on the impacts of farm to school, access our latest report

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