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October 31, 2023
One in five children in Canada are at risk of going to school hungry on any given day. Ensuring that every child gets the best start in life is a priority for the Government of Canada. To advance this priority, the Government of Canada is developing a national school food policy. School meal programs can help reduce hunger and food insecurity, improve children’s access to nutritious food, improve academic outcomes and achievement, and help support families by reducing food costs.
Today, the Honourable Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, released a What We Heard report summarizing feedback from consultations on a national school food policy. The feedback comes from engagement with key stakeholder groups, including provincial and territorial governments, service delivery organizations, health-focused organizations, agricultural organizations, food producers, charities, academics, experts, school communities, and children and youth. Additionally, the Government of Canada launched an online questionnaire on its Consulting with Canadians webpage in November 2022, where Canadians were welcome to share their perspectives to help inform the development of a national school food policy. Over 5,200 Canadians completed this questionnaire.
Almost all participants agreed that school food programs benefit children and their communities. For example, around 96% of questionnaire respondents agreed that school food programs benefit children, and many respondents described in their comments how these programs can also support families, strengthen people’s connections to food systems and help local economies. Participants shared many considerations for how a national school food policy could help maximize these benefits.
Indigenous peoples and organizations delivering programs within Indigenous communities emphasized the importance of facilitating access to traditional food and knowledge.
Additionally, children and youth shared that healthy eating allows them to stay focused and energized in school and to excel academically. They also emphasized that it is important for them to be meaningfully engaged in the planning, operation and evaluation of school food programs.
This report and the engagement that went into producing it are key in developing a national school food policy that is responsive to the evolving needs of children and families, while also setting a foundation for a future where more children in Canada have access to nutritious food while at school.
“I want to thank all of those who participated in these consultations. We heard you – no child should go to school on an empty stomach, and if they do, our schools need to be able to provide them with a nutritious meal. The elimination of poverty and food insecurity has been one of our government’s main priorities. School food can be one tool to help address this issue and make life more affordable for Canadians. We are moving in the right direction towards a national school food policy to improve the overall health of our children as they learn, leading to better futures for them and for Canada.”
– The Honourable Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
“When we launched the Food Policy for Canada in 2019, we laid the groundwork for a food system that will benefit all Canadians, especially our young people. This report is an important step to building a national school food policy to make sure that every child, no matter where they live, has access to healthy, safe and nutritious food, so they can reach their full potential.”
– The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
For media enquiries, please contact:
Office of the Honourable Jenna Sudds
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada