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Bill aims to make food literacy part of Ontario school curriculum

Students across Ontario will soon benefit from required food literacy courses, thanks to a Private Members Bill written and proposed by Food Policy Council (FPC) for Kingston, Lennox, Frontenac and Addington.

Bill 216, the “Food Literacy For Students Act”, will be a major step towards supporting students’ long-term health and wellbeing, according to a release from the Food Policy Council for Kingston, Lennox, Frontenac and Addington. FPC presented the bill to MPP Daryl Kramp in 2018, and the Bill has passed two of three legislative hearings.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the KFL&A Food Policy Council members and their efforts. When I met with them in the summer of 2018 I didn’t know it would lead us to change education in the province,” said Hastings-Lennox and Addington MPP Daryl Kramp. “For certain, dedicated, smart people can change the world.”

When the Bill comes into effect, experiential food education will be integrated into the provincial school curriculum, giving students in Grades 1 – 12 the opportunity to grow and prepare healthy food as well as learn about the food system, according to the release. The Bill will amend the Ontario Education Act by implementing a food literacy course of study to be fulfilled as part of the requirements for a secondary school diploma.

The FPC is one of many organizations who have been working towards getting hands-on food literacy into schools. “Learning how to grow and prepare healthy food is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of students”, explains FPC Member, Sarah Keyes. “For decades, groups like the Ontario Home Economics Association, Dietitians of Canada, Sustain Ontario, and many others have been advocating for a provincial food education curriculum. We are thrilled that MPP Kramp’s Bill takes a huge step towards helping this goal become a reality.”

“Bill 216 is so important,” adds Dr. Rupa Patel, a physician at the Kingston Community Health Centres and FPC Member. “The new food literacy curriculum will equip Ontario’s young people with the skills and knowledge necessary to make healthy food choices for life. This kind of education can make a huge difference in addressing diet-related illnesses that I see every day in my practice.”

“Food literacy can also have positive mental health benefits and reduce stress,” Patel explains. “The potential savings to the health care system are enormous. Research estimates that poor diets lead to an economic burden of tens of billions of dollars each year in Canada.”

Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, Keyes says the timing of Bill 216 is perfect. “Interest in growing home gardens, cooking, and supporting local food systems has grown dramatically since March,” Keyes explains. “People are understanding the value and importance of putting energy towards these activities, while outdoor and garden-based learning is gaining traction in schools. This renewed and mounting support for local food and food-based education is just what this Bill needs to be successful.”

After Bill 216 passes its third and final reading, the process of developing a provincial curriculum begins. “One of the wonderful things about food literacy is that encompasses more than healthy food skills,” explains Mara Shaw, Executive Director of the National Farmers Union and former FPC Member.

“Educators can use food as an entryway to teach topics of critical importance including food security, food justice, climate change, regenerative agriculture, ecology, culture, Indigenous foods; the list
goes on. Many organizations have developed and are teaching these important lessons right now. That’s the good news when thinking about curriculum development,” notes Shaw. “We do not have to start from scratch.”

“One thing we do have to ensure is that Bill 216 is supported with sufficient resources, including funding for materials and expertise to support teachers and school boards to roll this curriculum out properly,” Shaw adds. “We do not want the implementation to add to the workload of teachers, who already have their plates full.”

According to the FPC, Bill 216 promises to embed food literacy and skills education into the elementary and secondary school curriculum with the goal of promoting a secure and sustainable food system in Ontario. The Bill is gaining widespread support, with endorsements from over 30 provincial organizations and a growing list of individuals supporters.

To learn more about Bill 216 and how to support this initiative, visit foodpolicykfla.ca

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