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Dear Ministers of Health: as you meet, please remember the kids...

January 5, 2016

The Honourable Eric Hoskins

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

10th Floor, Hepburn Block, 80 Grosvenor St

Toronto ON M7A 2C4

Re: Requirement for Federal, Provincial, and Territorial support of a national universal healthy school food program

Dear Minister Hoskins:

It is with great pleasure that I write to you to introduce the work of Show Kids You Care to you.

We represent a national network of breakfast, lunch, snack, after-school and non-school meal programs for kids living in poverty and other difficult situations in Canada.

In the 2015-2016 school year we will help provide over 20 million meals to kids who need a bit of extra help getting enough nutritious food from day to day.

As you meet with your provincial counter-parts and federal Minister Philpott, we urge you to consider the urgent need for food to become accessible to kids living in homes where there simply isn’t enough food. There are immediate and long-term health impacts associated with making sure kids don’t have to skip meals.  Furthermore, there are social, economic, and moral reasons why providing food to kids who are struggling to get enough food each day just simply make sense.

Show Kids You Care is a founding partner in the Coalition for Healthy School Foods.  Our coalition knows that a national universal healthy school food program will help redress both ill health and inequity by ensuring that children can choose nutritious foods in schools, rather than being sold food that does not meet minimal nutrition standards.

Indeed, research demonstrates that school food programs increase children’s consumption of healthy foods, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and improve mental health. School food programs also improve educational outcomes and increase graduation rates by reducing hunger in classrooms, a known barrier to concentration and learning. Furthermore, school food programs have the potential to create thousands of new jobs and to grow local economies by investing in local agriculture and food businesses.

Historically, the federal government has provided little or no funding for school food programs, even for federally funded schools in First Nations communities. However, several Federal cabinet colleagues, including Ministers Bennett, Duncan, and Goodale, have been vocal proponents of a national healthy school food program. We see leadership emerging on healthy school food programs from the Governments of Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the City of Toronto, and sincerely hope that all levels of government will lead a more collaborative approach to this issue with provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments.

We urge you to help ensure that the agenda for the upcoming Federal/Provincial/Territorial meeting of Ministers of Health reflects a commitment to explore ways to implement a national universal healthy school food program in the context of a broader national food policy aiming to make our food system healthier, more equitable and more sustainable.

On behalf of the kids we serve in Ontario, and throughout the country, thank you for your interest in protecting children’s health, and helping them achieve their full potential.

Sincerely,

Kristy Taylor

Executive Director

Show Kids You Care

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