The Food Sharing Project celebrates national school food program funding in 2024 federal budget

During the COVID pandemic, The Food Sharing Project switched to a home delivery method, and delivered food boxes to people’s homes. Photo via The Food Sharing Project website.

On Monday, Apr. 1, 2024, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced funding for a national school food program in the 2024 federal budget. This is an exciting announcement for Canadian schools, and especially for Kingston’s non-profit organization, The Food Sharing Project, which has been working towards this goal for three years. The Food Sharing Project has been running for nearly 40 years, and now provides food and equipment for 88 schools in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington areas.

On Thursday, Apr. 4, 2023, the Kingstonist published a letter to the editor submitted by Brenda Moore, the Chair of The Food Sharing Project Board of Directors which began with: “Disappointment is the word that comes to mind when we at the food sharing project think of the lack of support for a national school food program in the federal budget released on March 28, 2023… Over the next year, we will step up our efforts to advocate for the essential support our children need. We will build on conversations already started and we are hopeful that Canadian families will see an investment in the future with funding for a national school food program in the 2024 federal budget.”

Now, Moore voices elation on behalf of The Food Sharing Project in reaction to the recent announcement.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the federal government has stepped up to honour its commitment that it made in 2021,” Moore says.

“Since 2021, many organizations across Canada have been laser-focused on getting the federal government to live up to that commitment and turn those words into reality.”

In 2021, the federal government announced their intention to develop a national school food program with $1 billion over five years, but failed to implement it. The Food Sharing Project has been working hard over the last year to achieve this goal.

“We worked with our city council and school board partners and community partners to, first of all, endorse the message that we need the National School Food Program, but then Mark Gerretsen, our local MP for Kingston, was instrumental in helping us bring the message to the House of Commons,” says Moore.

Moore explains how Gerretsen suggested that every Kingston school community send him a petition because he is obliged to address it in the House every time he receives one.

“It really gathered momentum all across the country,” says Moore. “Minister Sudds, who’s the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development… she called it the result of steadfast advocacy and that’s exactly what happened… it was the voice of all Canadians that pushed the government to live up to that commitment.”

On Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2024, MP Gerretsen congratulated The Foods Sharing Project in a Facebook post: “I want to give a huge shout out to The Food Sharing Project… Your passion and dedication to providing children with the best shot at a healthy lifestyle and education is second to none. I’m so proud to represent your voice in Ottawa, and grateful that there are people like you looking out for kids in the Kingston area. What you have done over the years is remarkable and today’s announcement is a testament that your work and legacy of being there to ensure no child goes to school hungry will be felt for generations to come.”

Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor, Brandon Tozzo, made a similar announcement at Kingston City Council on Tuesday, Apr. 2: “I would just like to applaud The Food Sharing Project… on getting a national school nutrition program passed in the budget coming up from the federal government. This is a huge, huge win for kids, and I just want to thank everybody who supported the motion last summer, and the great work this community has done to get this issue passed federally.”

Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor, Brandon Tozzo (middle left), at Kingston City Council on Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2024. Photo via Tori Stafford.

For Moore and those with The Food Sharing Project, the announcement is a positive sign, but not a quick fix solution.

“There are definitely challenges ahead, but we’ve got everyone at the table who needs to be there. There is no way that a national school food program could happen without support from the federal government,” Moore states.

“One in four children in Canada are living with food insecurity, and in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington, that number is one in six families. That’s massive. That can’t be solved by not-for-profits.”

Moore is hopeful that a national school food program can quickly be put into place since every province and territory already has the infrastructure of a school food program.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We know how to get food to kids. We just need more money to be able to get more food to more kids,” she expressed.

The federal government made the same pledge they made in 2021, $1 billion over five years. More details on how this will be dispersed will hopefully come in the budget announcement on Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024.

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