Halifax prof says national food program not just pie in the sky idea

September 12, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

A Dalhousie University professor says a national school food program is not just a pie in the sky idea, but one she believes is close to becoming a reality.

"I actually wrote an article this time last year aimed at parents to explain why your kids need a national food program. I can't believe the progress that's even been made in one year," said Sara Kirk, a professor of health promotion at Dalhousie University.

"The key thing for us is that we had Senator Art Eggleton table a motion in June that actually said we need to do this."

That June 13 motion urged the federal government "to initiate consultations with various groups to develop an adequately funded national cost-shared universal nutrition program."

Introducing the motion to his Senate colleagues, Eggleton asked "why, in a wealthy country like Canada, are so many children hungry and malnourished?"

A UNICEF reportpublished in June 2017 ranked Canada 37 out of 41 countries in terms of access to nutritious food for children. Canada was below the United States, which was ranked 36, and just above Bulgaria, which placed 38.

"I think that's appalling and embarrassing. We're also one of the only OECD countries that doesn't have a nutrition program for our kids," Kirk said.

"All kids need to have some degree of food literacy and we see a lot more of that in other countries. In many other countries they prioritize food, they prioritize eating, sitting down for meals. In Finland, for example, school lunches are free to all students and actually the healthiest meal those students eat during the day."

A dietitian by training, Kirk said she's always been interested in food-related research. Since she came to Canada from the U.K. 11 years ago, her focus has been looking at ways to create supportive environments for chronic disease prevention.

Among other things, what she's discovered is that our environment is not supportive of the very behaviours society actively promotes.

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