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IN THE NEWS:
The Coalition for Healthy School Food presses health ministers to take action on children’s health
Vancouver, January 19, 2016 -- In the face of rising costs of healthy food, increasing healthcare costs, and skyrocketing chronic diseases rates, it is time Canadian health ministers took measures to ensure that children in Canada grow up knowing about and eating healthy food. The Coalition for Healthy School Food is calling on federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health to discuss the development of a national healthy school food program, funded in part by the federal government, at their meeting in Vancouver January 20 and 21.
Canada’s children and youth face serious food-related challenges: only one-third of children between the ages of 4 and 13 years eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruit daily; one-third of students in elementary schools and two-thirds of students in secondary schools do not eat a nutritious breakfast before school, leaving them at risk for learning, behavioural, and health challenges at school; and one-quarter of children's calorie intakes are from food products not recommended in Canada's Food Guide.
“This is a problem we can no longer afford to ignore,” says Sasha McNicoll, Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food at Food Secure Canada. “The federal government has already taken promising steps in announcing funding for social infrastructure and a national food policy to promote healthy living. We believe this policy should start with children. Building on the programs at the provincial and territorial level, federal investments will ensure that Canadian children develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.”
School food programs, which currently receive piecemeal funding from provinces and municipalities, have shown to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, improve physical and mental health, decrease behavioural and emotional problems, improve educational outcomes, and increase graduation rates.
Given all the positive implications, it is difficult to understand why Canada remains one of the only industrialized countries not to fund a school food program. With leadership emerging on healthy school food programs from the Governments of Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the City of Toronto, the federal government has a huge role to play in leading a collaborative approach to this issue with provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments.
“Children in British Columbia who participate in healthy school food programs have been shown to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer unhealthy foods,” says Brent Mansfield, Director of the BC Food Systems Network, a member of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. “A federal investment will leverage provincial efforts to improve the health of all Canadian children.”
“School food programs that provide children with healthy food and nutrition literacy have an incredible potential through improvements in population health to reduce long-term healthcare costs,” says Dr. Victoria Crosbie, a pediatrician and the Chair of the Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador, a member of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. “Addressing the social determinants of health is vital to turning the tide of chronic disease.”
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About Food Secure Canada
Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty through three inter-locking goals: zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems.
About the Coalition for Healthy School Food
Food Secure Canada convenes the Coalition for Healthy School Food, which comprises over 30 regional, provincial and national organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians, working toward a national school food program for Canada.
Sasha McNicoll, Coalition for Healthy School Food Coordinator, Food Secure Canada, cell: 647-770-8388, email@example.com
In Vancouver during the Health Ministerial.
Food Secure Canada is distributing this press release on behalf of the Coalition on Healthy School Food