Canada, $1 billion to new national school food program

TORONTO – Jagmeet orders, Justin executes. As already happened with the Dental Care Plan and Pharmacare, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau immediately fell into line when the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh (who is keeping the minority Liberal government alive), invited the executive to respect the promise made during the 2021 election campaign but never kept: to finance a new national school food program. 

Three years after the electoral campaign and a few weeks after Singh’s invitation to keep that commitment, the announcement came: today, from Scarborough, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his deputy (and federal Finance Minister) Chrystia Freeland have tabled the allocation (in the next budget on April 16) of $1 billion over five years to fund the expansion of existing school food programs, providing meals to an additional 400,000 Canadian children per year.

Promising to work with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners on implementation, Trudeau characterized this funding as “a safety net for children and families facing food insecurity. This year’s budget will focus on implementation of equity. Equity for every generation. That obviously starts with children and families” the Prime Minister said.

During the 2021 election campaign, the federal government promised to “develop a national school food policy and work towards a national nutritious school meals program with an investment of $1 billion over five years”. The commitment was then mentioned in the 2022 federal budget without any funding attached and excluded again in 2023, despite the fact that the ability of Canadian schools to continue offering meals to students was progressively declining, both due to the increase in students accessing to school food programs, as well as skyrocketing food costs without proportional increases in program funding.

Then, in recent weeks, came the “invitation” from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to the Liberals to keep their commitment. Although the school food fund is not a measure included in the “pact” that sees the NDP support the minority Liberal government, Singh pushed for this funding to be included in the budget, pointing out that Canada is lagging behind other G7 countries in implementing a national school feeding program. “So many families are in difficulty and so many children are hungry: and when children are hungry, they can’t concentrate on school. they can’t concentrate on having fun, they can’t concentrate on being children. And this shouldn’t happen” said Singh, whose words were followed by Trudeau’s announcement today.

In the pic above, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a screenshot from the CPAC YouTube channel – the Cable Public Affairs Channel