No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy

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Author: Carolyn Webb

Posted: March 19, 2013

Categories: Edible Education Network / Good Food Ideas for Kids / GoodFoodBites / Policy News

On March 4, 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Healthy Kids Panel submitted its report, No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy.  The Panel was established to help Ontario achieve its goal of reducing childhood obesity by 20% over 5 years (which is a part of the Government of Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care).

No Time to Wait proposes a 3-pronged approach to addressing the complex issue of childhood obesity:

  1. Start all kids on the path to health.   This priority highlights important steps to support young women to maintain their own health before they conceive and to support babies from the time of conception until after they are born.
  2. Change the food environment.  This priority identifies that parents want to make healthy food decisions but find it difficult within their current food environment (given marketing towards children, point-of-sale promotions and displays, unhealthy food provided outside of the home, and many other external factors).
  3. Create healthy communities.  This priority focuses on the need to develop coordinated programs and a broad community approach to kids’ health (recommendations include involving schools as hubs, using the expertise of professionals, and advancing the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Mental Health and Addictions Strategy).

The panel then proposes a set of measures and actions to achieve the ideas it puts forward.  The Panel also provides a set of requirements needed for the process to succeed:

  1. Make Child Health Everyone’s Priority.  This includes establishing a cross-ministry cabinet committee, chaired by the Premier, and engaging ‘the right’ partners and players outside of government.
  2. Invest in Child Health.  This includes providing focused government funding, allocated to preventing or reducing unhealthy weights, through the continuation of existing funding streams and by adding at least $80 million per year of new funding.
  3. Use Evidence, Monitor Progress, Ensure Accountability.  This priority recommends developing monitoring programs, supporting research, and providing an annual public report on Ontario’s progress towards meeting its target.

Many members of Sustain Ontario and the Children and Youth Food Network (CYFN) (a new name is forthcoming) have been very pleased to see that the report takes a broad systems and community approach to the complex issue of kids’ health, and that the report recognizes the critical role of the food environment as well as opportunities for government and community intervention.   It is encouraging that the Panel calls for specific actions as well as dedicated funds to support its recommendations.

It is also important to draw attention to the large number of the Panel’s recommendations that are consistent with those that have been put forward by members of Sustain Ontario and the CYFN:

  • The Panel’s support for Student Nutrition Programs to give kids more equitable access to healthy food among other aims (recommendations 2.8 and 2.9) and protecting children and youth from targeted advertising of unhealthy food and beverages (recommendation 2.1) are in line with the proposals put forward by members of the Children and Youth Food Network’s advisory in the Backgrounder on Food Literacy, Student Nutrition and Food Service in Schools (31 July 2012).
  • Many of the Panel’s recommendations complement those of the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy (OFNS), which Sustain Ontario is helping to coordinate and that is being developed with the input of over 200 food and farming experts (see the Panel’s recommendations compared to the OFNS; thanks go to Lynn Roblin, Chair of the Ontario Collaborative Group on Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (OCGHEPA), for preparing this comparative document).
  • The Panel also recommends providing incentives for the Ontario food sector to support community-based food distribution systems (recommendation 2.6), which is consistent with Sustain Ontario’s Briefing Note on Policies to Support Local Food (December 2012).

In addition to implementing the Panel’s recommendations, many members of Sustain Ontario and the CYFN would encourage the Government of Ontario to put in place other measures that would provide a stronger food environment, as well as healthier and more equitable communities, for the wellbeing of all of Ontario’s kids.  These include:

  • Implementing fresh, local, and sustainable procurement policies for schools.
  • Establishing children and youth gardens, composters and culinary programs in schools.
  • Supporting activities outside of the classroom to educate children and youth about food.
  • Emphasizing a focus on food literacy (understanding where food comes from, the impacts of food on health, the environment and the economy, and how to grow, prepare, and prefer healthy, safe and nutritious food) as a valuable tool for reducing the incidence of childhood obesity and other diet-related illnesses.
  • Ensuring that families have access to fresh, healthy food regardless of their socioeconomic status.
  • Supporting the implementation of an Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy (click to read the in-depth strategy).
  • Passing a Local Food Act.

It is positive to see the Panel call for “Making Child Health Everyone’s Priority” and engaging other partners and players.  Members of Sustain Ontario and the CYFN look forward to being further involved in this and other related initiatives in an effort to bring systems change to Ontario’s food system and the health of Ontario’s kids.

For more information about policy proposals put forward by members of Sustain Ontario and the CYFN in these areas see:


The Children and Youth Food Network (CYFN) has been established to bring together groups in Ontario that are doing great work to connect children and youth with good food. The network better enables these groups to share resources, ideas, and experience, work together on advocacy, and facilitate efforts across the province to get children and youth eating, growing, cooking, celebrating, and learning about healthy, local and sustainably produced food.

The CYFN is currently undergoing a Network Action Planning process to better understand the needs that it could address and priorities for action.  If you would like more information about this process or to contribute to it, please contact Carolyn Webb, our Network Coordinator, at