Should lunch be provided to all kids in school?

Poll: school lunch program

School meal programs should be more than a meal — they should anchor school curriculum and root kids into their school, advocates say.

Canada is the only G7 country without a national school meal program, with a patchwork of school-based and regional programs partially filling a gap exacerbated by the pandemic. It’s an inadequate system that needs reform — an opportunity, say advocates pushing for a universal, national school lunch program, to rethink the role of food in Canadian schools.

“There’s three reasons why we don’t have a national school food program in Canada,” said Debbie Field, co-ordinator for the Coalition for Healthy School Food, a national organization advocating for a Canada-wide school food program.

“We don’t prioritize healthy food in our lives or in Canada ... we have a very old-fashioned division of labour in Canada between what is so-called provincial jurisdiction and so-called federal jurisdiction ... and the Canadian government is loath to create new social programs that may get expensive when, in fact, we believe this program would save money because of the (beneficial) health impact.”

Roughly 20 per cent of Canadian households with children struggle with food insecurity, according to a May report by Statistics Canada. School meals are essential to helping those kids get enough food — but they also play a larger role, benefitting students across the socio-economic spectrum and contributing to societal well-being more broadly.

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