National School Food Program named in 2019 federal budget!

The 2019 Federal Budget (Figure 4.3) revealed the government's intention to work with provinces and territories to create a National School Food Program. This is exciting news, especially for the many school food champions in Nova Scotia and beyond who have been working towards a universal healthy school food program for years! A school food program can work to address  both issues of child ill-health and inequity as well as potentially creating economic spins offs for local food systems. As the only G7 country without a National School Food Program, our time has come!

We celebrate this step forward and acknowledge that this is not the end of our work, but rather a milestone on a journey that will need to continue full steam ahead! With no funding attached to this commitment, the benefits and impacts of a National School Food Program are not likely to be felt soon, and there is much work to be done to help inform the vision for the Program. Now more than ever we need to be having conversations with elected officials of all levels, as well as principals, SACs, students, school cafeteria staff, parents and the general public about what a school food program should look like and what it can serve, both literally and figuratively.

From our experience, we know successful programs are rooted in and run by the communities they serve. To develop an effective National School Food Program community voices will need to be heard and listened to with care, from coast to coast to coast. In Nova Scotia, we are fortunate to have a wealth of local wisdom to draw upon. From passionate community volunteers who give their time to run breakfast programs, to community leaders and partners championing successful lunch pilots and initiatives to our youngest citizens speaking up to ask for “good foods’ to eat in school--all motivated to create healthy food environments in schools.

Just as important as “who is at the table” to inform these conversations is who should not be at the table. We hope to see similar safeguards that were recently used in the development of Canada’s Food Guide to ensure conversations about a National School Food Program prioritize the health, education and well-being of those it will serve over profit-driven interests.

Collectively, we couldn’t have come this far without each and every one of you who started a conversation, shared the petition, sent a tweet, met with an MP or mailed a campaign postcard or letter. We look forward to continuing our work with the Ecology Action Centre, public health and community partners, leading the charge to empower communities to #SpeakUp4SchoolFood. Let’s not lose momentum! We urge you to keep up the action and stay connected to the campaign and help us turn this budget commitment into reality.

If you haven’t done so already, sign up for our #SpeakUp4SchoolFood campaign. Please share this post with your friends, families and colleagues Facebook + Twitter share button.

NewsKayla Thomas