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Starving students: Need for school meal programs rising, groups say

Rising levels of food insecurity has advocacy groups and teachers' unions calling on the province to fund breakfast and lunch programs for students
Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce waits for his introduction before speaking to the media at an Etobicoke library, in Toronto, Sunday, April 16, 2023. A group of 14 advocacy groups, organizations and teachers' unions are calling on the government of Ontario to provide free breakfast and lunch meals for all students in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — Advocacy groups, teachers' unions and food banks are calling on the Ontario government to provide a free breakfast and lunch program in schools across the province. 

In a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Children Minister Michael Parsa today, the collection of organizations say many children in Ontario are facing food insecurity that forces them to rely on food banks for their nutritional needs.

The groups, including the Toronto Youth Cabinet, Food Banks Canada and the province's four major teachers' unions, say current student nutrition programs in Ontario are seeing increased demand but are not meeting the needs of students.

The organizations say Ontario should provide a universal free school breakfast and lunch program to all students and guarantee that schools have sufficient infrastructure, resources and funding to deliver the meals.

Feed Ontario, a collective of 1,200 direct and affiliate food banks and other organizations that work to address food insecurity, said in a report in November that 587,000 adults and children visited the province's food banks a total of 4.3 million times between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. 

The coalition of hunger relief organizations said about 30 per cent of food bank clients were under the age of 18.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2023. 

The Canadian Press


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