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Why we need a universal food and nutrition program for children in Canada

Date: November 12th, 2020

About the Event:

SCHOOL FOOD AND NUTRITION – COVID-19 reveals gaps in the food system and the need for a comprehensive universal food and nutrition program across Canada

Canada is the only G7 country without a national school food program. Challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown the gaps in the food system and emphasize the essential role that school food programs play nourishing children. This webinar will discuss why the implementation of a Universal Healthy School Food and Nutrition Program is in the best interest of children to support their health, well-being and learning. Recommendations for a comprehensive food and nutrition program will be discussed along with the challenges and opportunities identified by schools offering food programs, including the barriers presented by COVID-19.


This webinar will enable participants to:

  • Understand the rationale and need for a comprehensive national universal school food and nutrition program
  • Learn about the essential elements and key recommendations for a comprehensive school food and nutrition program
  • Learn about advocacy efforts to support the creation and implementation of a universal school food and nutrition program, including the challenges, barriers, and opportunities
  • Understand the challenges of offering school food programs prior to and during COVID-19 and some lessons learned for future policy and program development

This webinar is co-sponsored by the Arrell Food Institute and Nutrition Connections.


This event will be moderated by Lynn Roblin, MSc RD, Registered Dietitian and Senior Policy Consultant at Nutrition Connections – Ontario Public Health Association.


Jess Haines, PhD, MHSc, RD, Associate Professor, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph

Dr. Jess Haines is Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relations & Applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Jess’s research focuses on bridging epidemiologic research on predictors of child nutrition with interventions designed to support healthful eating. In collaboration with Amberley Ruetz, Jess co-led the development of a spotlight report highlighting key recommendations for creating comprehensive, integrated food and nutrition programs in Canadian schools.   

Amberley T. Ruetz, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Guelph & Arrell Food Institute

Amberley Ruetz is a Ph.D. Candidate and Arrell Food Scholar at the University of Guelph. Informed by her time working for the Ontario Student Nutrition Program, Amberley’s research examines the social and economic return on investing in school food programs.  In Ontario, her work investigates the extent to which a regional food system approach to school food can support the provincial agri-food sector.  Nationally, Amberley is a collaborator on a number of school food-related projects and led a pan-Canada survey of school food programs in collaboration with Mary McKenna. 

Mary McKenna, PhD, Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of New Brunswick

Dr. Mary McKenna is a Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick.  Mary has a longstanding commitment to promoting healthy eating in schools through applied research on policies and programs.  Working with others, her current activities include examining food provision to school children in response to COVID-19, school food programs funded by provinces and territories, examples of positive school food environments in New Brunswick, and opportunities for food and nutrition literacy in schools.  Mary is active within the Coalition for Healthy School Food, a co-founder of Farm to Cafeteria Canada, was program chair for the national conference devoted to school food in 2015, and volunteers with a number of health-related organizations in New Brunswick.  

Rachel Engler-Stringer B.Sc., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine

Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and a researcher with the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit. She convenes the School Food Working Group of the Canadian Association for Food Studies and is currently the principal investigator on a curriculum-integrated universal school lunch program intervention study. 

Supplementary Material:

Nutrition Connections: Why Canada Needs and Universal School Program

Nutrition Connections: Policies that Influence Food Literacy in Children

Arrell Food Institute: Comprehensive, Integrated Food and Nutrition Programs in Canadian Schools: A Healthy and Sustainable Approach 


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