FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Toronto, August 31, 2017 – As Canadian children head back to school next week, the Coalition for Healthy School Food is sounding the alarm that Canada ranks 37th out of 41 countries in providing access to nutritious food for children.
“Many kids returning to school this year will not learn optimally because they are not adequately nourished,” says Sasha McNicoll, Coalition for Healthy School Food Coordinator. “Canada remains one of the only industrialized countries without a national school food program.”
Canadian children face a disadvantage compared to children in other high-income countries as shown by a recent UNICEF report, and a study published this week shows that Canadian children eat less healthy food at school than at home.
One third of students in elementary schools and two thirds of students in secondary schools do not eat a nutritious breakfast before school, undermining their health and academic potential. School food programs, which only reach one million of Canada’s five million schoolchildren, have shown to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, improve physical and mental health, decrease behavioural and emotional problems, and improve educational outcomes.
“Despite all of the positive impacts associated with school food programs, and the federal government’s focus on healthy eating and youth opportunity, Canada is falling short,” says McNicoll. “Children spend more than half their waking hours in schools, so we should ensure they have access to nutritious food and are set up for healthy lives and educational success.”
Diet-related diseases are the biggest driver of rising health care costs in Canada, so it is vital we turn the tide by fostering a healthier next generation.
“It is much easier to instill healthy eating habits in children, and to ensure they know where their food is coming from and how to prepare it, than it is to change adult behaviour. An investment in school food programs is an investment in the future of Canadian kids,” says McNicoll.
Investments from provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, as well as from parents, civil society organizations, and corporations, are supporting a patchwork of school food programs across the country. A federal investment can leverage these efforts to improve the health and educational outcomes of all children and lower health care costs for the next generation of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty through three inter-locking goals: zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems. Food Secure Canada convenes the Coalition for Healthy School Food, which comprises more than 30 regional, provincial and national organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians, working toward a national school food program for Canada.
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