Vote for healthy food and food literacy in Ontario schools

Where is food literacy headed for the students of Ontario?

We almost had it – legislation to teach critical life skills to Ontario students. Bill 216 – Food Literacy for Students Act, 2020 was to include the following:

The Education Act is amended to provide that curriculum guidelines shall require that courses of study be developed in experiential food literacy education and healthy eating for every grade from grade 1 through grade 12.

In order to obtain their high school diplomas, students needed to learn about all aspects of food – from health and nutrition and food preparation skills but also about sustainable food systems, food production, food security and food safety.

Bill 216 had unanimously passed second reading and, with its overwhelming support, seemed to be on its way to its final reading and Royal Assent. But then the premier prorogued the legislature in September 2021 which meant the bill had to be re-introduced and started again from scratch. A lot of work had already gone into developing a draft curriculum and as a result, was supposed to be re-introduced in February, 2022.

But since the legislation wasn’t about cars and highways and actually promotes saving farmland, our government just didn’t get around to it. In March of this year, they did, however, include some changes to the science curriculum in various grades and while it was a start, it came nowhere near what Bill 216 would have accomplished.

The Ontario Coalition for Healthy School Food, which involves national and provincial health, education, and indigenous organizations including the Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA) has been working tirelessly to raise awareness about the importance of food and nutrition programs and food literacy education in Ontario schools.

In a press release, OHEA states,

Connecting children and youth with healthy food, through school meals and education, has tremendous potential to improve the future of our province. Studies show that children and youth learn better when they are well-nourished and not hungry. Providing healthy and culturally appropriate food in school programs and teaching about growing, selecting, preparing, eating, and valuing food can play a critical role in promoting health and reducing chronic disease while strengthening Ontario’s economy and supporting the agri-food sector.

Next week on June 2, the people of Ontario go to the polls. And we need our candidates to speak up and make a commitment to the youth of Ontario.

So what do the different political parties think about these issues?

Together with Sustain Ontario, another province-wide, cross-sectoral alliance that has also been actively involved in promoting healthy food and farming, the Ontario Coalition for Healthy School Food and Brescia University College, they are providing an opportunity to find out at a virtual all-party event which will be live-streamed on Facebook. If you can’t watch it live, it will be available for viewing afterwards.

The event will take place on Thursday, May 26th at 12 noon – 1 p.m. ET. The party leaders have appointed the following candidates as representatives.

Matt Richter, Green Party of Ontario, Parry Sound-Muskoka | 12 – 12:15 p.m.
Amanda Pulker-Mok, Ontario Liberal Party, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston | 12:15 – 12:30 p.m.
Terence Kernaghan, Ontario New Democratic Party, London North Centre | 12:30 – 12:45 p.m.
• TBD, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario | 12:45-1 p.m.

Candidates will answer the following four questions, provided to them in advance — If elected, what will you do to…

1. Advance food literacy as a mandatory part of the school curriculum for grades 1-12?
2. Strengthen the conditions for experiential food literacy education in Ontario schools?
3. Address Ontario’s annual investment in the Student Nutrition Program to accommodate rising food costs coupled with greater demand?
4. Work with the federal government on a national, universal healthy school food program?

In our last election, about 57% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Our youth deserve better this time around. Watch the event and if you haven’t already cast your ballot, #VoteONFood.

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Categories: Children's Health, Food Safety, Food Security, Nutrition News

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Vote for healthy food and food literacy in Ontario schools”

  1. May 25, 2022 at 5:33 pm #

    An excelent article that will help voters think about their food.
    Thanks Rosie Swartz, RD
    from the Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA)

    • May 25, 2022 at 5:40 pm #

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Mary! We do need action!

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