Increased support needed for Ontario’s Student Nutrition Programs

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Author: Sustain Ontario

Posted: May 31, 2023

Categories: Edible Education Network / Good Food Ideas for Kids / GoodFoodBites / News from Sustain Ontario / School Food News / Schools

Over the last year, there has been an increasing amount of media attention on the need for more investment in school food programs — and rightly so. Many programs are struggling, or have even had to close, because of rising food prices and increasing demand (see this 2022-23 media coverage out of Kingston, Niagara, Hastings and Prince Edward County, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and London).

On May 11, 2023, the Ontario Chapter of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, Chaired by Sustain Ontario, sent a letter to Minister Parsa, Minister Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), to highlight this need for more Student Nutrition Program (SNP) funding.

The letter explained that “A growing body of research demonstrates that school food programs can benefit students’ physical and mental health, improve food choices, and lead to student success (e.g. academic performance, student behaviour, and school attendance). These programs help reduce the $5.6 billion/year in costs due to nutrition-related chronic disease illnesses in Ontario. Well designed and non-stigmatizing SNPs also have broad, positive impacts on families, communities, and the economy by reducing household food costs, creating jobs, and strengthening Ontario’s agri-food sector.”

On May 24th, the Toronto Youth Cabinet also sent a letter, signed by the Coalition and a number of other organizations, asking MCCSS for funding for school food programs, which Global News covered. The video featured in the story shares a quote from Minister Parsa, saying, “This year our government is investing an additional $1.1 million into the Student Nutrition Program and First Nations Student Nutrition Program.”  The video also stated that he will be hosting a roundtable over the summer to gather stakeholder insights into operational and future needs.

We are pleased to see this investment in critical school food programs in the province, and look forward to future efforts toward greater provincial and federal investment in a comprehensive program in line with the Coalition for Healthy School Food’s 8 Guiding Principles.