A study by the Institute for Socioeconomic Research and Information (IRIS) confirms that only 12% of primary school children in the country benefit from a school feeding program, compared to 61% in the average for high-income countries. Meanwhile, more than one in five children in Quebec experience one form or another of food insecurity, i.e. more than 200,000 students in the public school system.
The members of the Working Group for a Universal School Feeding Program in Quebec (PASUQ) are concerned about the data revealed by the IRIS study.
“We can and must do much more to provide our children with healthy and affordable meals in all of our public schools. A universal school feeding program would have major beneficial impacts in terms of public health, the reduction of social inequalities, educational success, the economy and the environment, in addition to significantly reducing the mental burden on parents”, stresses Maëlle Brouillette, coordinator of the PASUQ project.
Children who skip lunch may not be getting enough vitamins and minerals from the rest of their meals and snacks, a study suggests.
“Overall, the lunch meal is very important for helping children meet their nutrient needs, especially for fat-soluble vitamins A and D, minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium that are important for healthy bones, and dietary fiber,” according to study coauthor Alison Eldridge of the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Kids who missed lunches tended to be deficient in vitamins A, D, E, and K, along with several essential minerals.
Healthy Meals at School
“This year, La Cantine pour tous is expanding its services and responding to this crying need in Quebec by providing 1.1 million school meals at affordable prices in around 100 schools across the province. This is three times more than last year: clearly, the need is there,” explains Thibaud Liné, general manager of La Cantine pour tous. “Together, we can ensure that no child in Quebec ends up in school hungry. A universal school feeding program would ensure that this is the case, so that school food insecurity is no longer in our news every school year.”
La Cantine pour tous is a collective that brings together social and economic solidarity organizations who share a desire to act together to help solve food insecurity and other food issues in their regions. The organization is currently experiencing significant growth. It is supported by the Government of Quebec and its partners working in health and education, who are committed to fostering its development. It aspires to become a model for accessibility to food security. By positioning itself as a pioneer in the field, as a collective, La Cantine pour tous aims to catalyze a broader movement by encouraging the duplication of its approach to ensure universal access to a healthy and balanced diet.
Pending a universal program, the organization continues its efforts by offering thousands of affordable meals to primary school students. La Cantine pour tous appeals to the public to help feed thousands of children across the province. Every gesture counts: a donation of $6 provides a complete school lunch for a child.
The Working Group for a Universal School Food Program in Quebec (PASUQ) brings together several partners working in the areas of school food, food security, the environment and sustainable development, as well as school daycare. Its objective is to document, evaluate and paint a picture of school food practices in order to issue concerted recommendations for the possible implementation of a Universal School Food Program in Quebec.