Good morning. My name is Janelle Hatch. I am here today to speak passionately about a topic I feel strongly about because I am a mother, a dietitian and an employee of the health system and school sector. I am a member of Dietitians of Canada, one of more than 40 members of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, which is coordinated by Food Secure Canada.
Approximately 20% of students in Canada receive a meal or snack at school. These programs are largely volunteer-run and have multiple funders, including parents, schools, community groups, businesses, municipalities, territories and provinces.
Evidence shows that a national universal healthy school food program would increase children's consumption of healthy foods, reduce their risk of chronic diseases, improve mental health, improve educational outcomes, and increase graduation rates. Also, a national school food program has the potential to create jobs and grow local economies by investing in local agriculture and food businesses.
A national school food program has been recommended by the Senate social affairs committee, a former House finance committee, the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel and the former chief health officer, as well as in Senator Art Eggleton's June Senate motion number 358.
Today we are asking your government to invest $360 million in your next budget to partner with provinces, territories, municipalities, community groups, parents and other stakeholders in funding a cost-shared program estimated at $1.8 billion. Your support will make a positive difference in the lives of our schoolchildren.