Photo: David Goldman Archives Associated Press According to a survey carried out on behalf of the Breakfast Club, 88% of Canadians firmly believe that federal, provincial and municipal governments should make child and adolescent hunger and malnutrition a priority.
More than two years after the Liberal Party of Canada (PLC) committed to establishing a national school meal program, students remain hungry. Despite the electoral promise to invest a billion dollars over five years, the Liberal government has still not budgeted for this envelope since its re-election in 2021.
The Breakfast Club, the only national school food organization, is getting impatient. So much so that leaders came to Parliament Hill in Ottawa Monday morning to meet with MPs and senators. On the eve of the federal economic update, they finally hope to obtain the long-awaited financial commitments.
“The fall economic update would be a good opportunity for the government to intervene. He has used this platform on several occasions in recent years for budget announcements in exceptional situations. We have reached an exceptional situation,” says Judith Barry, co-founder and director of government relations at the Breakfast Club of Canada, in an interview with Devoir.
A Canadian child on four are food insecure. Despite numerous donation campaigns and private contributions, the Breakfast Club only meets 20% of the country's needs, argues the director.
After asking the Quebec government to provide funds in its next budget, the Club welcomed the $5 million investment announced in Minister Eric Girard's economic update in early November.
By meeting political leaders in Ottawa, Ms. Barry now hopes to “apply additional pressure” to make the election promise a reality as soon as possible. “For us, the 2023 budget was a big disappointment because we expected a first investment. Children no longer have the luxury of waiting,” she confides.
Elected officials from each party are participating in the meeting with the organization Monday morning. Several MPs are also expected to speak during the question period in the House in the afternoon on this subject.
For us, the 2023 budget was a great disappointment because we expected for a first investment. Children no longer have the luxury of waiting.
— Judith Barry
The establishment of the national program has made little progress since the 2021 campaign. It took a year before public consultations were held, in November and December 2022. In October this year, the Government of Canada finally published its report following these consultations. The problem: It has no timeline.
The recent report’s “next steps” section contains only two short paragraphs. “The comments and testimonies we heard will contribute to the development of a national policy on food in schools, which remains an important commitment for the Government of Canada,” we can read there, without however finding of date.
Questioned on the date on which the program could see the light of day, the Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development did not offer a clear answer to Duty. “We continue to work on developing such a policy, but we recognize that this is a trying time for many Canadians and that it is even more difficult to make ends meet due to the “global inflation,” he wrote by email.
The ministry adds that its commitment remains “a high priority.”
Why all the delays? Judith Barry agrees that the federal government must respect the jurisdiction of the provinces in education. “But it has a responsibility at the level of its health policy, to develop healthy eating habits, and this program is a good opportunity to do so. […] We don’t know why he is waiting. “It seems that sometimes it's easier to make things complicated,” says the director.
A survey carried out on behalf of the Breakfast Club showed that 88% of Canadians firmly believe that Federal, provincial and municipal governments should make child and adolescent hunger and malnutrition a priority.