All children have the right to healthy and sufficient food to learn well in school. In other G7 countries such as the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, a universal school feeding program is already part of the solution to ensure this right. To date, Canada has not followed this path, nor has Quebec.
Disturbing statistic, in Quebec, nearly one in six children (15.7%) lives in a family in a situation of food insecurity and the current increase in food prices is not helping the situation.
Access to healthy meals is nevertheless recognized as a determining factor for the success of young people. Different reasons, socioeconomic or otherwise, can cause a child to skip a meal or not eat properly. As a society, we must do everything to remedy this.
This is why we advocate the establishment of a universal school feeding program for all students, without exception.
A matter of fairness
Such a measure allows young people to have access to healthy meals at school, where they consume up to 2⁄3 of their daily energy intake. The principle of universality is a matter of fairness. It ensures that no student is harmed in their right to education and healthy food, and avoids discrimination and stigma.
At the federal level, the government is working to develop its national school food policy, following an election commitment to invest $1 billion over five years.
Quebec is already taking action: the government’s health prevention policy provides for measures to promote healthy eating and food education among young people, and the Ministry of Education has just increased funding for organizations and schools.
We need to do more
These actions bear witness to the recognition of the importance of the issue by the public authorities. But we have to go one step further. In Quebec, the federal government’s commitment is helping to create a tremendous opportunity to act as a leader by defining our own model, a real social project that can serve as an inspiration for the rest of Canada, as was the case for the CPE.
Currently, a limited number of children benefit from school feeding initiatives which are already demonstrating their full relevance (AgrSchools, Five Spice Workshops, Breakfast Club, Farm to School, Rooted Schools, Ecollation, La Cantine pour all, La Tablée des chefs, For Quebec foods in our schools, etc.). On these bases, it is already possible to build the universal program that we dream of for our children.
· A program that gives pride of place to healthy, local and eco-responsible foods, in line with the National Strategy for Purchasing Quebec Foods and the Quebec Sustainable Agriculture Plan.
· A program promoting the economic development of the regions, agriculture and respect for the environment.
· A program contributing to enriching the social fabric of communities and building a sustainable and resilient food system.
· A program integrating a food and culinary education component, to lay the necessary foundations for the adoption of healthy lifestyles.
This is a beneficial project for the whole of society, which we can now embrace collectively. The election campaign offers an opportunity to put the helm in this direction. We therefore ask all parties and candidates to commit to working towards the deployment of a universal healthy school food program in Quebec.
Like education, access to healthy and sustainable food must be considered a public good and an inalienable right. It is high time to distinguish ourselves in Quebec by giving our children what many countries have already given to theirs.
*Quebec Collective of the Coalition for Healthy School Food
*List of the 60 signatories:
AgrEcoles, Julia Grenier, Executive Director
Ana Bautista and Katarina Radovanovic, co-founders of Neo College
Quebec Public Health Association, Thomas Bastien, Executive Director
Quebec School Daycare Association, Diane Miron, Executive Director
Bernard-Simon Leclerc, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal
Job Access Buffet, Darllie Pierre-Louis, General Manager
Carrefour solidaire community food center, Beccah Frasier, co-director general
Centraide of Greater Montreal, Claude Pinard, President and CEO
Marigot Self-Help Center, André Gariépy, General Manager
Social Economy Working Group, Béatrice Alain, General Manager
Breakfast Club, Marie-Claude Bienvenue, VP, Government Affairs, Quebec, and Municipal Affairs
Montreal Coalition of Neighborhood Tables, Yves Bellavance, Coordinator
Quebec Coalition on Weight Issues (Weight Coalition), Corinne Voyer, Director
Collective La DAL Collective, Dimitri Espérance, co-founder and managing director
Montreal Food System Council, Anne-Marie Aubert, Coordinator
Coop Chambord, Eric Audy, General Manager
Cooperative for Ecological Proximity Agriculture (CAPÉ)
ÉquiLibre, Roxanne Léonard, Executive Director
Equiterre, Colleen Thorpe, Executive Director
Autonomous Federation of Education, Mélanie Hubert, president and Patrick Bydal, vice-president for political life
Federation of Parents’ Committees of Quebec, Kevin Roy, President
Heart & Stroke Foundation
Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation
Forks of Hope, Brunilda Reyes, Founder and Director
J’M Love Nutrition, Mélissa Larivière, Dt.P – nutritionist
Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy (Concordia University), Marguerite Mendell, Director
La Cantine pour tous, Thibaud Liné, General Manager
La Corbeille Bordeaux-Cartierville, Donald Boisvert, General Manager
Collective Kitchen Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Benoist de Peyrelongue, General Manager
La Grande table, Ginette Valcourt, General Manager
La Maisonnette des parents, Dolly Kendarji, general manager
The Ste-Marguerite Meeting, Lyne Charuest, General Manager
La Tablée des Chefs, Jean-François Archambault, Managing Director and Founder
The René-Goupil Community Education Center (CECRG), Nathalie Prieur, Executive Director
Le Chic Resto Pop, Laurianne Labonté, program director
The Quebec Collective of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, Danie Martin, coordinator
The Depot, Tasha Lackman, General Manager
Le Pantry For All, Ghislaine Théorêt, General Manager
The PART Group, Martine Thomas, Managing Director
Le Pignon Bleu, Roseline Roussel, General Manager
The Sustainable Food Network, Kristina Craig, Board Secretary
BIS Catering, Danny Belley, General Manager
Five Spice Workshops, Mélanie Veillette, General Manager
Miss Mav, the fairy of little gourmands!, Aurore Robert-Mavounia, General Manager
MultiCaf, Jean-Sébastien Patrice, Managing Director
Nancy Neamtan, former CEO of the Chantier de l’économie sociale
Nutrimini, Mélanie Magnan, pediatric nutritionist
Pediatric nutritionists, Cosette Gergès, nutritionist-dietitian and co-founder
Share the Hope, Julie Poirier, Director of Food Security Programs
Small Hands, Nahid Aboumansour, General Manager
Root Pop – Root Pop, Claudia Perez-Lévesque, President
Regrouping of Autonomous Parents’ Committees of Quebec
Resto Plateau, Audrey Mougenot, General Manager
Salmata Ouedraogo, Full Professor in the Department of Economics and Administrative Sciences at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi
Santropol Roulant, Pierre Liné, Managing Director
South West Island Neighborhood Council, Alena Ziuleva, Director
Always Together, Melissa Bellerose, Executive Director
Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA), Martin Caron, General President
Vincent van Schendel, former CEO of TIESS (Innovative Territories in Social and Solidarity Economy)
Yvan Gauthier, CEO of the Foundation of Greater Montreal from 2013 to 2020