UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Centring Children, Health and Justice at the Core of Canadian School Food Programs Black, Jennifer L.; Elliott, Sinikka; Engler-Stringer, Rachel; Field, Debbie; Mansfield, Brent; Segave, Stephanie; Liné, Thibaud


Canada remains one of very few affluent countries without a national school food program (SFP), and the federal government recently expressed support for developing such a program. In doing so, the government was responding to growing calls for state funding to support a national program coming from the Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF). Despite years of multi-stakeholder advocacy for and strong international evidence extolling the benefits of universal SFPs, there remain seemingly intractable debates about for what and whom Canadian SFPs should be designed to serve. To move forward, we propose a clearer articulation and shared understanding of the core goals of a robust Canada-wide SFP. This chapter brings together reflections from the literature and first hand perspectives of people on the front lines of SFP design and implementation with data from a recent case study that draws on the voices of students, parents and staff from a suburban Canadian school district as it transitioned to a new lunch program model. From these insights, we collectively argue that to transcend current deadlocks around designing a future national SFP, Canadian policy makers must actively centre the voices and needs of children, and pursue comprehensive notions of wellbeing and justice at the heart of school food programming.

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