School Food Program for Children Act

An Act to develop a national school food program for children


Don Davies  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Dec. 14, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-212.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides for the development of a national school food program to ensure that all children in Canada have access to healthy food.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

National Framework for a School Food Program ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2023 / 6:50 p.m.
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Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, they say that public education is the great social leveller, yet we know that kids cannot access the promise of education if they are hungry. Today, millions of kids across our country are going to school without food in their bellies. This is something we can change. The bill before us, Bill C-322, can be a part of a change toward the creation of a nationwide school food program that will provide healthy meals to kids going to school right across Canada.

There are many reasons why we should pursue a national school food program. I was looking at a study from The Rockefeller Foundation showing that in the United States, the $18.7-billion investment in school meal programs provides a return on investment of $40 billion. Perhaps for some people those kinds of numbers are motivating, but I think there is a much more profound reason we need to do this: Access to healthy food for kids is a human right. Kids deserve to access the promise of education with food in their bellies. Far too many, millions of kids across our country, are not able to do so.

That is why we in the NDP have long called for a national school food program. I want to particularly highlight the work of the member for Vancouver Kingsway, who tabled Bill C-212 in 2021 on a national school food program, and also our excellent critic, the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has been working tirelessly on this issue in her role as the critic for children, families and social development.

Canada is not doing well when it comes to the provision of school food. Right now, Canada is the only G7 country that lacks a national school food program. Among the OECD countries, we are one of only a few countries that lack such a program. A 2017 study by UNICEF ranked us 37th out of 41 countries. These are 41 of the richest countries in the world, and we are ranked 37th when it comes to the provision of school meals. This is something we need to do much better on.

Right now, the situation in Canada is a patchwork of programs that are held together by NGOs, volunteers, schools and private donors. They are working so hard to ensure that kids can have healthy meals at school, yet we know it is not meeting the need that exists in our country, despite their tireless efforts. That is why the federal government has a responsibility to come forward with a fully national school food program that meets the needs of kids.

I mentioned the situation in Canada. Every province and territory has some semblance of funding for school meal programs. Unfortunately, that funding is falling far short, between three cents and 94¢ per person, per meal. I think anyone in this House who has bought food recently can say this is not nearly enough to ensure that kids are getting nutritious food at school.

Right now, this is a particularly pertinent issue because we have seen the cost of food skyrocket. With the profits of the grocery giants going through the roof, more and more Canadians are struggling to put food on the table. School food programs, given the existing patchwork, are even having a hard time affording the food they need to provide the level of school meals they are currently providing, not to mention meeting the needs that exist across the country.

In my home province of British Columbia, we are very fortunate that the NDP provincial government just recently announced a historic program, Feeding Futures. This is a $214-million school food program over three years. It is the largest investment in a school meal program in Canadian history. It is making a difference right across our province, with school districts now able to increase existing programs and create new programs where none existed.

We need the federal government to come to the table as a partner. This bill in front of us, Bill C-322, can be a contribution in that direction.

I will mention that it has taken a long time to get to this point. Of course, the Liberal Party, in 2019, committed to investing in a school food program. It did not put a dollar value to it.

In 2021, we saw in the Liberal platform that the government would commit $1 billion over five years. That was two years ago. Just imagine all the kids across our country who could have been fed over the past two years if those dollars had flowed and that commitment had been made real with a budget commitment. We are hopeful that budget 2024 will include these necessary dollars so that the patchwork of programs across the country can get the funding needed to deliver more meals.

This vision for a national school food program needs to be universal. It should not be just for kids who are not getting adequate food at home. It should be for all kids so that we are not stigmatizing those who come from more disadvantaged backgrounds. We know that it needs to be cost-shared with the provinces, and it should be free or low-cost for the kids participating in the programs. It also needs to support indigenous food sovereignty and local food production. Those are the characteristics I hope would be reflected in a national school food program created under the terms of the bill before us. This could make our country stronger. When we do it, we will be better for it in so many different ways.

I had my eyes opened to the potential of school food programs two years ago when I visited Suwilaawks Community School in Terrace, in northwest B.C. I visited Suwilaawks with a number of people, including Sam from the Coalition for Healthy School Food, Margo from Farm to School and the principal of Suwilaawks. They showed me the school food program there, and it was tremendously impressive.

I got to go into the kitchen and watch little kids lined up to get homemade soup and fry bread, which had been made by a volunteer named Janis Sharyk Fowler, who has been volunteering at the school for 12 years, and one of the indigenous support workers at the school, Colleen Morgan. She is fondly known as Grammie Colleen to the kids. She got up at seven o'clock that morning to make over 200 pieces of fry bread. Seeing the joy on the children's faces when they came into the school to get this food really brought home the potential of these programs to give kids the nutritious food they deserve so they can learn in our schools.

I would be remiss if I did not also highlight the work of another tireless volunteer in the Terrace area, and that is Gurjeet Parhar. Gurjeet has been working on local food programs and food security for so long through the Kalum Community School Society. The Kalum Community School Society has been delivering a good food box and a food-share program in communities from Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek in northern B.C., all the way down to Bella Coola and over to Haida Gwaii. She has been a tireless proponent of school food programs. I want to thank her for her incredible work across the northwest.

This is an idea whose time has come. It is time for us to move quickly now. There have been far too many delays in getting a national school food program up and running. We need this billion-dollar commitment over five years to hit the ground and to match the funds that are being brought forward by provinces such as my home province of British Columbia. We can improve Canada's standing among peer nations. We can get nutritious, healthy school food to kids right across our country and make our country stronger as a result. We can uphold the human rights of these kids who are going to school hungry.

In a country as rich as ours, we should do no less. We should make every effort to ensure that our children and children in communities all across this nation have the school food they deserve and need to learn.

National Framework for a School Food Program ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2023 / 6:10 p.m.
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Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the speaker on his private member's bill. I would like to add that the Liberals promised this four years ago. It was part of their platform and they still have not delivered on it. I am glad he is taking the initiative.

The member for Vancouver Kingsway also put forward a private member's bill earlier this year. It was Bill C-212, the school food program for children act, which I seconded. We tried to push the government to put in a school food program for children. There is no reason kids should be going to school hungry. As a former educator, I know what damage it does for kids' learning when they are going to school hungry.

Does my hon. colleague believe the Liberals will actually keep their promise and put this bill in place?

Food Day in Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

May 8th, 2023 / 11:10 a.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be here today to speak to Bill S-227, an act to establish food day in Canada. I thank the member for Perth—Wellington for sponsoring it in this place.

This bill is very similar, with some minor changes such as the date, to Bill C-281, an act to establish a national local food day, which was introduced in the 42nd Parliament by the former NDP MP and national parks critic Wayne Stetski. MP Stetski's bill was itself a reiteration of legislation introduced in the 41st Parliament as Bill C-449, an act respecting a national local food day, by former NDP MP and agriculture critic Malcolm Allen. Therefore, it is good to be here debating this bill, which has such a rich history in this place.

It is incredibly important to ensure that Canadians have access to healthy, affordable food and a sustainable food system. These are national priorities. I agree with the former speaker that they need a lot more support and investment. It is important to support our local agriculture markets as they are essential to us moving forward with this goal.

As I was preparing for this speech, I was thinking a lot about what we experienced during the beginning of the pandemic. I remember a lot of communities and organizations contacting me to talk about food and how worried they were with the big changes that were happening across the planet and with their food security.

My riding is just under 60,000 square kilometres. I have a lot communities on islands, and they were very concerned. I remember when there was a COVID outbreak in Alert Bay. The butcher there became very ill and had to be away for 14 days. That made it very hard for people to access the meat and protein they desperately needed.

Therefore, ensuring that we have local responses and that we honour the importance of assuring that if something happens there is enough food to sustain us is incredibly important.

I am also pleased to have an opportunity to talk about the rich farmers' markets across my riding. What I find profound about all the farmers' markets is that they are evolving quickly, and they celebrate locally grown food, which I really appreciate. It means I can go online and look at all the resources our farmers' markets bring. They connect us locally to people who are producing different types of food. The websites are available on that one site, so people can look at what they can locally connect to directly, and that is important.

When we know who feeds us locally, it means we can access their products. It is good for the environment and it supports local businesses. I come from a rural and remote riding, and keeping money in our region is incredibly important. These folks work very hard, so I appreciate how it connects us to local providers and allows us to buy locally to protect not only those local business but also our planet. We must always remember to celebrate the people who make food for us and who are very close to us.

I think of my visit to the Blueberry Commons' farm co-operative, which does some great work around connecting with children in schools, providing food for people and creating a local business that is going to make sense. It is also looking at how it can add housing to this co-operative. When it looks at its community, it sees how high the need is for affordable housing. It is quite incredible when we see these kinds of groups coming together and identifying how they are going to support not only keeping food healthy, local and affordable for people, but also ensuring that affordable housing is included going forward.

I think about the Namgis community garden. When I went there I was amazed by the establishment it had created and by the many young people who would go there to learn how to garden from the more mature members of the community. This brings the community together. It was very profound to see the number of young people who were getting jobs because they were working with local businesses and people saw an opportunity to hire them. As they said, it was a good problem to have.

I think of Big D's Bees. We have strong support for bees in a lot of places throughout our riding. Big D's Bees does a lot of work to ensure we have good honey, but we are also showing our solidarity with the bees, which are struggling so much.

Amara Farm is another one, one of my favourite farms in my region. They do a lot of incredible work to create produce, and also work very hard to make sure that the farmers' market is successful.

The reality is that when we talk about this bill, we have to acknowledge how many people are going hungry. Twenty per cent of Canadians have said that they were very likely or somewhat likely to obtain food from a community organization in the next six months. We know that people are struggling to make ends meet, and it is getting harder and harder.

One of the hardest challenges for families that are struggling financially is finding affordable, accessible food that is healthy for their children. We hear about this all too often: children going to school hungry, children struggling with health issues because they cannot eat the proper food.

I know that my friend, the MP for Vancouver Kingsway, has put forward Bill C-212, an act to develop a national school food program for children. This is absolutely important. We know that too many children go to school hungry. We need to make sure that we are supporting those children without any embarrassment or shame, so that they can get the health and nutrition they need, so that they can be better educated and take care of that education. I really appreciate the focus on those kinds of things.

When we talk about this, we also know we are watching some of our grocery chains in this country, specifically Loblaws, which are seeing outrageous profit during this time when so many Canadians are going hungry. I remember when our leader asked Galen Weston how much profit is too much, and of course he was unable to answer that question. I wonder why. We know that feeding people is less important than making sure there is profit for people who have a stake in that business.

As the cost of food goes up, as we know, more and more food is being shipped across the planet. We need to find ways to look at this and have a more sustainable future that includes healthy food for people, but also includes accessing local food before we go outside, especially when we look at things like the carbon footprint and what that means for us as food travels around the world.

I have only a couple of minutes left in my speech, but I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the great heroes of all of us across this country, and that is our local food banks. Not too long ago, I was in Gold River and I was talking to one of the members of the town council. She was talking about how the Gold River Food Network is doing everything it can, but it is getting harder and harder to feed people because so many people are accessing it. They noted, specifically, that there are a lot of seniors accessing food banks. That is quite concerning, that people who are living on a fixed income are struggling more and more. If they do not have healthy food, their health outcomes are worse.

I also think of the Campbell River Food Bank, which does a lot of work in that community, but also holds a lot of food for other food banks on some of the islands near our region. As they see the increase in just the Campbell River area, they are having a harder and harder time taking in that extra food that they hold for those other communities. Storage is becoming a huge issue. If they cannot store the food, then it gets harder to get food out to other communities, and that really concerns me.

I also think of the Powell River Food Bank. I went to meet with them, and one of the stories I will never forget was about the embarrassment of a wife coming in and asking them to please not tell her husband that she had to go to the food bank, because they just did not have enough food. She had paid all the bills and there was nothing left over.

In this time when food insecurity is increasing, it is incredibly important that all of us in this place take responsibility and understand that we must support healthy food for people. We must look at what is happening in our local communities and lift those businesses up, lift those farms up so that they could provide the best food.

I look forward to supporting this bill, and I hope that we have a special day to recognize and celebrate local food. I also hope that all of us will celebrate it every day by buying products that are close to home.

National School Food ProgramStatements by Members

March 8th, 2023 / 2:20 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is International Women’s Day.

As people struggle with the high cost of living, the poverty rate for single moms is the highest among all family types. The Vancouver School Food Network and Coalition for Healthy School Food are calling on the Liberal government for a funded national school food program in budget 2023. Rising food costs and greedflation have put an enormous strain on families, and too often, children go to school hungry.

The NDP’s Bill C-212 would help families that are stretched to the max and having trouble putting food on the table. The Liberals ran on a promise of investing $1 billion over five years for a national school nutritious meal program, but empty promises will not fill empty stomachs.

I am calling for a national school food program in budget 2023. I am also calling for a guaranteed basic livable income, a low-income CERB and CRB amnesty and the refund of clawbacks from Canada child benefit recipients. Let us end poverty and bring food security to all families and their children.

School Food Program for Children ActRoutine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-212, An Act to develop a national school food program for children.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce my bill proposing the school food program for children act. I would like to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for seconding this bill and for her tireless advocacy and support of food security.

This legislation would require the Minister of Health to develop a national school food program to ensure that all children in Canada have access to healthy food. The program would operate at little or no direct cost to children or their families; build on existing practices from other jurisdictions; and promote evidence-based, healthy food education.

In a country as prosperous as Canada, no child should have to struggle through the school day on an empty stomach. Prior to COVID-19, more than 1.5 million children lived in families who struggled to put food on the table in this country. Food insecurity has grown dramatically through the pandemic. A national school food program would not only give every student in Canada access to nutritious food, but it would make healthy eating a daily lesson for our kids.

I call on all parliamentarians to work together to support this important health and social justice initiative that so many other countries around the world are already doing.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)