President's Choice children’s charity and U of T aim to discover the impact of nutrition at school

June 22, 2022

Canada is the only G7 nation without a national in-school meal program. In Japan, school lunches are provided universally to all students at a highly subsidized cost. In France, multi course meals are provided to each of the country’s six million students. And in the United States, the USDA operates a national, free or low-cost program. With involvement from Provincial, Municipal and potentially Federal governments, and hundreds of charities, all operating a variety of delivery models, how do we choose the right food program for Canadian students?

We believe the first step is to understand how to remove hunger as a barrier to learning for more than one million children who attend school hungry. Hungry kids experience 27% higher anxiety levels, they miss more school, and they disrupt their class more often – extending the impact of hunger even further to other students. Do our kids need a hot lunch to fuel their learning, or to find a basket of snacks readily available in the classroom?

To better understand the problem, the current delivery models, and how to have the biggest impact for our kids, President’s Choice Children’s Charity approached the team at the Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition, part of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, to conduct a comprehensive study on how school-based meal programs are supported, delivered and implemented across Canada.


“This research will help develop policies to support a comprehensive, inclusive and cost effective national school meal program that will be made publicly available to anyone who needs it.”

Fully funded by a $2 Million-dollar grant from the Charity, the study, called Feeding Kids, Nourishing Minds, includes researchers from medicine, public health, social work, engineering, humanities and early child development. It will be the first to inform and benefit all organizations within the school-based nutrition landscape, so kids who eat well can continue to do well.

“Many people and organizations put huge effort into feeding children in schools every day across this country,” says Daniel Sellen, the study lead and director of the Lawson Centre. “We need a much fuller picture of this work to guide policy and program development, and to improve delivery at the community level.”

“This data is a missing piece of the national school food program conversation, so our priority is for the results to be publicly accessible and follow academic standards of research independents.” says Lisa Battistelli, the executive director of President's Choice Children’s Charity. “It will inform development of financially responsible programming that delivers a measurable impact for kids – not only for us, but for anyone who needs it, including policy makers.

The researchers will begin to publish findings this year, and President’s Choice Children’s Charity will share those with our network as they become available.

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