Skip to main content

Windsor-Essex community leaders applaud Feds’ $1B school food program


The federal Liberal government is finally making good on a years-old election campaign pledge, committing Monday to allocate $1 billion over five years to fund a new national school food program.

The funding, to be included in the upcoming April 16 budget, will launch with the aim of expanding existing school food programs, providing meals to an additional 400,000 Canadian kids a year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland made the announcement in Scarborough, Ont., backed by members of cabinet and caucus as part of their latest pre-budget press tour.

Vowing to work with provinces, territories, and Indigenous partners on implementation — as he has with other recent pre-budget pledges — Trudeau framed this funding as a safety net for kids and families facing food insecurity.

"Tomorrow, kids will be going back to school, and some of them won't have enough to eat. That impacts their health and their opportunities to learn and grow," the prime minister said, noting the cost of groceries was likely a topic of conversation at many family gatherings over the long weekend.

"We've recognized that every province and territory has its ways of delivering food programs to kids, but we also know the need is far greater than anyone is able to meet right now," Trudeau said, noting some recent progress made in Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

"These are choices we're making as a government because we know that making sure that young people here get the best start in life…is how you build fairness for every generation,” said Trudeau. “We just know that when kids eat better, they do better in school.”

According to Judith Barry, the co-founder of the Breakfast Club of Canada, one in three children are at risk of going to school hungry.

“We're seeing some very direct connections between health outcomes and behavioural issues,” Barry said.

Leaders at agencies who assist those living in poverty say a program like this will be very beneficial for youth in Windsor-Essex.

“We were really pleased that this is finally coming to fruition because it has been years of advocacy to make this happen,” said Lorraine Goddard, the CEO of United Way Windsor-Essex.

Goddard said 37 per cent of area youth are growing up in low-income households and data from local food bank operators suggests about 30 per cent of all food bank users in this region are children.

“If you're hungry, how that would even impact your mood, and your behavior, your ability to concentrate, all of those things,” Goddard said. “So this is really a welcome announcement for kids across Canada who are really experiencing hunger and other barriers for their success.”

Goddard said she’s anxious for details, because she knows how expensive a national program like this could end up costing.

There are more than 36,000 elementary students in Windsor-Essex. Goddard said the cost to administer a school food program universally will be in the neighbourhood of $30 million each year in Windsor-Essex alone, based on the formula that you feed every student for roughly $4 a day.

She notes far more than $200 million per year will be needed to make any nationwide program successful, she said it will take both the provincial and municipal governments, along with community partners.

“It's going to require many other folks to help make this really work for our community,” she said.

The government aims to begin the program next school year.

— With files from Rachel Aiello, CTV’s Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Top Stories

Stay Connected