UNICEF ranked Canada near the bottom of the industrialized world
Believe it or not, but Canada is the only G7 and OECD country without a national school meal program for low-income children.
Although Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recently tabled federal budget announced the first steps towards “the creation of a National School Food Program,” it remains unclear how quickly work is going to progress on the plan considering Morneau allocated $0 in funding towards the initiative.
It’s not clear what the hold up is. In 2016, a Senate committee issued a report recommending “school programs related to breakfast and lunch programs,” an idea that was echoed again by Senator Art Eggleton last summer.
Going back further, MP’s have been advised to create a national school nutrition program the issue since 1997.
Back in 2016, a Simon Fraser University study found:
“Canada currently stands as the only G8 member and only member of the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without a national school meal program. In Canada, school meals are organized through provincial authority and vary across regions.”
The report noted that there exists a patchwork of programs in schools across the provinces but “currently, schools may not have sufficient funding to support these essential programs.”
Likewise, UNICEF ranked Canada 37th of 41 wealthy countries when it comes to food security, ending hunger, and improving nutrition in 2017. The Hill Times reported UNICEF suggested a national school meal program could contribute to improvements in children’s healthy eating.
The 2019 federal budget did note the government’s “intention to work with provinces and territories towards the creation of a National School Food Program.”
But, the Times reported, no money was committed to it and “it’s also uncertain whether a national program can be achieved given funding costs.”
Darlene O’Leary, socio-economic policy analyst with Citizens For Public Justice, says it fits a broader narrative with no funding allocated either last or this year, and no sign of that changing until — at very least — after the election. “It continues to be very piecemeal in terms of how it allocates funding when it has to do with poverty issues.”
Additionally, as PressProgress reported, Canada’s social spending is among the lowest in the industrialized world.