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Councillors support effort to grow more support for food in schools

With unanimous council support, the County has joined other cities across the nation to endorse the Coalition for Healthy School Food mission advocating for a Canada-wide school food program. There was also support for the more local effort to raise funds and knowledge about Food for Learning programs.

The resolution was brought forward by councillor Bill Roberts and followed two school food deputations – one on the coalition and one on the annual Feed the Meter campaign.

“It often seems strange to me when we look around that we’re an agricultural community and we are dealing with food insecurity; and we are pretty much an accommodator community and we’re dealing with people that are in desperate need of shelter,” Roberts noted. “We’ve heard the advocates and we want to send them encouragement and we want to make sure that they understand that we agree with their pursuit to get a universal school program in this country.”

Council in the summer also expressed support for a more generous Canada Child Benefit targeting low-income families struggling with food insecurity and urged the federal government then to expedite its 2021 election promise to roll out Canada’s first national school food policy.

Sarah Keyes, provincial co-ordinator with the Ontario Chapter of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, told council food programs play a fundamental role in improving the lives of children and youth. The coalition is the largest school food network in Canada comprised of more than 260 non-profit organizations.

“When children attend school hungry or undernourished, their energy levels, memory, problem-solving skills, creativity and concentration are negatively impacted,” she said.

She noted that nationally, 35 per cent of schools have some form of food program that is funded in part by provincial or territorial governments. Remaining funds are by donations and programming varies greatly in scope, consistency and quality.

She explained the Student Nutrition Ontario program equals 14 lead agencies who distribute provincial funds from the Ministry of Children Community and Social Services. The agencies work with more than 39 community partnerships across the province.

“These community partnerships engage school bards, public health units, community volunteers and parents to support school programs at the local level,” added Keyes.

She added rising costs of food and higher program uptake have significantly outpaced provincial school food programming and now, she said, more federal and provincial action is required.

Jenn Barrett spoke to the Feed the Meter Campaign, one of the Food for Learning programs operated through the Hastings Prince Edward Learning Foundation.

She confirmed to council that mirroring many households, the foundation is feeling the pressure of rising food costs – up 10 per cent year over year in January, according to Statistics Canada data.

“The rising cost of food not only means that the weekly costs of running the Food for Learning program is increasing – it more importantly means that the number of families who are depending on the program is also increasing. Our need for funding is growing two-fold – both in costs, and in needs.”

This year, the Feed the Meter Campaign is to launch Tuesday, Nov. 28 (Giving Tuesday) and as part of the launch, the HPE Learning Foundation gained municipal support to explore holding a voluntary road toll to bolster financial and knowledge of the programs. She also confirmed in answering a question, that the group would be pleased to work with any farmer wanting to assist the programs with excess crops.

Filed Under: Local News

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