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New Westminster school board wants all kids to be fed in school

Provincial and federal governments should invest in universal school food programs for all K-12 students, trustees say.
School lunch GettyImages-501229164
The New Westminster school board is pushing for provincial and federal investments in universal school food programs across B.C. and Canada.

The New Westminster school board is joining a call for publicly funded universal food programs in schools across the country.

Trustee Danielle Connelly brought the issue to the table at the board’s June 7 operations committee meeting. She asked fellow trustees to endorse the efforts of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, a network of more than 200 non-profit organizations across the country.

The coalition is advocating for public investment in a cost-shared, universal school food program that would see all Canadian children have daily access to healthy food at school — including culturally appropriate, local and sustainable food as much as possible.

Canada remains the only G7 country without a national school food program, and UNICEF has ranked Canada 37th out of 41 wealthy countries when it comes to children’s food security and nutrition, according to a background report Connelly provided.

The report also points out how COVID-19 underlined the need for school food programs, noting the provision of healthy food at school helps students’ mental and physical health, school performance and “social cohesion.”

“I think that we all certainly understand the importance of healthy food programs in our schools. We’ve done a lot of work in our district, so many folks have, to support and facilitate this,” Connelly said.

School District 40 has an existing Fuel Up school meal program that allows parents to order daily lunches in all elementary and middle schools. Those who can’t afford the cost can get subsidized meals.

Connelly wants to see such food programs available across the province and country.

Her motion asks the board to write to New Westminster MLA and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and Finance Minister Selina Robinson to commit funding and resources to local school meal programs for kindergarten-to-Grade 12 students in B.C.

It calls on the B.C. government to commit to $50 million a year for three years to set up and evaluate school pilot programs in at least six districts across the province and another $3 million so every school district in B.C. can hire a dedicated school meal program coordinator.

It also calls on New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian to support the coalition’s call for the federal government to begin to implement a universal, cost-shared, healthy school food program for all K-12 students in the country.

The motion won universal support from trustees and received final approval at the June 21 board meeting.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, [email protected].