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e-4586 (Food and drink)

Initiated by Debbie Field from Montréal, Quebec

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

  • Families are struggling. Inflation and affordability pressures mean that more and more children are finding it difficult to access nutritious food, with food insecurity affecting 1 in 4 children (1.8 million);
  • School food programs improve children’s nutrition, mental health, long-term health, school performance, attendance, social cohesion and contribute to local economies, as recognized by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (1997) and countless research studies;
  • The quality of student diets across all socio-economic backgrounds is poor;
  • The preventable cost of nutrition-related disease in Canada is estimated at $15.8 billion annually;
  • School meals can take pressure off household budgets;
  • A national school food program would join universal childcare and the Canada Child Benefit as crucial family supports;
  • In 2017, UNICEF ranked Canada 37th out of the 41 wealthiest nations regarding providing healthy food for kids;
  • The Rockefeller Foundation reports that US school meal programs return double their cost in human health and economic benefits; and
  • Federal Budget 2019 committed to school food under the National Food Policy, Budget 2022 re-stated the federal commitment, and the Liberal Party’s 2021 election platform promised $1 billion over five years.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to provide $1 billion over 5 years for school food with an immediate investment of $200 million in Budget 2024, an investment, negotiated with provinces, territories and Indigenous leaders, which will help children develop the food and nutrition habits they need to lead healthy lives and succeed at school.

Response by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Élisabeth Brière

The Government of Canada is committed to working with the provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners, and key stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and explore how more children in Canada can receive nutritious food at school. Work to fulfill this commitment is ongoing and remains a key priority.

To advance and inform this work, the government has and continues to engage with a broad range of stakeholders from across Canada, including through bilateral conversations and roundtables, and has also sought the views of Canadians through an online questionnaire. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development has also visited school food programs and met with stakeholders in many communities across Canada.

Through these engagement activities, we have gained a better understanding of the current school food landscape, as well as views on principles and objectives that could shape a National School Food Policy. Stakeholders highlighted that school meal programs can have multiple social, health, environmental and economic benefits and can play a role in increasing access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for children, especially those from low-income or food-insecure households.

On October 31, 2023, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food released a “What We Heard” Report that summarizes the views that were shared during these engagements on a National School Food Policy.

While we continue to work with key partners on the development of a National School Food Policy, we recognize that this is a challenging time for many families and that global inflation has made it more difficult to make ends meet. The Government of Canada has taken recent action to deliver inflation relief to Canadians. For example, the Government provided a one-time Grocery Rebate payment that provided eligible couples with two children with up to an extra $467. We also recently proposed amendments to the Competition Act to enhance competition, particularly in the grocery sector.

In addition, the Government of Canada has made significant investments through targeted social programs and income supplements to reduce poverty and increase well-being. This in turn helps improve Canadians’ ability to meet their basic needs, including access to nutritious food. These programs and benefits include the following:

• the Canada Child Benefit, which provides substantial tax-free income support to families raising children;

• the new Canadian Dental Care Plan;

• the newly expanded Canada Workers Benefit, which supports workers earning lower wages;

• the Employment Insurance program; and

• the creation of a Canada-wide early learning and child care system with a significant reduction in fees.

Open for signature
September 20, 2023, at 10:52 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 20, 2023, at 10:52 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Julie Dabrusin (Toronto—Danforth)
November 2, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01864)
Government response tabled
December 12, 2023
Photo - Julie Dabrusin
Liberal Caucus