Local student food program advocates voice support of 2024 federal budget move

Bags packed for students to take home. Photos via The Food Sharing Project in 2020.

Just days after speaking with Kingstonist about the national school food program funding from the federal government, The Food Sharing Project issued a media release celebrating the much-needed money allocation in the 2024 Budget.

The federal announcement took place on April 1, 2024, and stated that a national school food program will be supported by $1 billion over the next five years when the 2024 Budget is released on April 16. This funding is targeted to feed 400,000 more children and youth at school, according to a release from The Food Sharing Project.

Brenda Moore, Chair of The Food Sharing Project was delighted with the news.

“When the 2023 Budget was released without the federal government acting on its 2021 commitment to embed funding for a national school food program in the budget, we were so disappointed,” she expressed. “Now, that pledge has been honoured at a time when this funding is so desperately needed as families across the country struggle to put food on the table.”

In the release, The Food Sharing Project thanks school board partners, Kingston City Council and community partners for endorsing the call and in particular, Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen who suggested petitions from local school communities which he read in the House of Commons to bring the local voice to Ottawa.

“We need to take a moment to celebrate this accomplishment, which is the result of many years of work particularly by the Coalition for Healthy School Food and Breakfast Club of Canada, national organizations which have been laser-focused to turn words into reality,” Moore added.

“They rallied Canadians across the country, politicians at all levels, educators, community partners, even students provided their voice, to endorse a national school food program. As Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jenna Sudds said last Monday, the announcement was the result of ‘steadfast advocacy’.”

The Food Sharing Project said that more details will be available in the coming weeks, but the hope is that federal funding will flow to the provinces and territories to support existing school nutrition programs where the infrastructure is already in place to get food to students.

The Food Sharing Project, now in its 40th year, is the non-profit organization which provides nutritious food to all 88 KFL&A schools. Each week, volunteers pack over 450 boxes of food, valued at $20,000, which are delivered to the schools where school staff and volunteers prepare snacks and meals for any student who needs healthy food, no questions asked.

“The need for healthy food at schools continues to increase every year as families struggle with the affordability crisis,” said Andy Mills, Executive Director of The Food Sharing Project.

“Families who were just making it by last year now have to pay more for rent, gas and food, and they are increasingly relying on the availability of food at school for their kids. School Coordinators tell us the need is greater since September 2023 and our funding can’t keep up. We know there are kids going hungry at school.”

Moore said that she hopes the federal announcement will leverage more funding from the Ontario government, despite funding remaining at 2014 levels in the recently released provincial budget.

“Ted Hsu, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, helped bring the critical need for more funding to Ontario Ministers, and Ontario Liberals added their voice to the call from the Coalition for Healthy School Food for Ontario to double its commitment,” she acknowledged.

“Canada is now a country which prioritizes the health and well-being of its greatest asset, its children. This funding marks a new chapter in school nutrition programs, one with the goal that every child, from kindergarten to grade 12, will have access to good food at school. We will look to our community partners and generous donors to continue to work with us to level the playing field and ensure all children have a chance to reach their full potential.”

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