Federal Government’s National School Food Policy
December 9, 2022 | Paul Bootsma
No one wants to see children go hungry, but according to the Breakfast Club of Canada, there are 2 million children (age 18 years and under) that go to school without breakfast. In a wealthy country such as Canada, this should not be the case. So why is it?
The Government of Canada says, “School meal programs exist in some form in all provinces and territories and in many Indigenous communities. However, school meal programs only reach around 21% of school-age children… A healthy diet throughout childhood is important for lifelong good health, well-being, and socio-economic outcomes.”
The federal government has launched consultations for a national school food policy, which will look into whether the government should support a program providing food for a breakfast food program at Canadian schools.
The government has also written a discussion paper which explains the intent of this program and gives many reasons why we should have such a program. We can agree that children going to school hungry or with an empty stomach hinders their ability to learn. Therefore, we need to resolve this issue as a nation.
To do this, we also need to know and understand all of the issues that have resulted in there being so many hungry school children. Many people will include the breakdown of the family as part of this problem, such as single parents who need to get to work but don’t have time to prepare a meal prior to kids going to school. Other factors such as salaries not having increased proportionally with the cost of living make it difficult to purchase enough food for the home. So many parents rely on programs that will provide food for children.
From a Christian perspective, our emphasis should be for the government to work towards a society that will allow parents to support their children financially, but also with the time and means to feed their children at home. Families are what build healthy societies.
The government has prepared a questionnaire, which people have until December 16th to fill out. There are four sections in the questionnaire, one of which says, “The pan-Canadian school food policy will help set out a path for a future where more children can receive nutritious food at school.” One goal people can select is to “Reduce burden on parents to prepare meals.” This suggests that parents shouldn’t need to provide meals for their children, or shouldn’t have to take the time to prepare meals for their children. This is not healthy for our society; parents need to be responsible for their children’s well-being.
The program also gives reasons on how this will assist agriculture, suggesting that a school food program might be able to use food that doesn’t meet grocery store cosmetic requirements or quality. Food waste is a very concerning issue in Canada and this should reduce the amount of wasted food. However, will the program look for donations, or will there be financial returns for the food that is used for this program?
The CFFO encourages our members to fill out the questionnaire.
Paul Bootsma is Member Relations Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.