Universal Meal Programs in Canada: Learning about Local Efforts for Healthy Food in Schools
Food policy, school food, universal school food, child hunger
Related Course Concepts
Food justice, Food security, Asset based community development, Social class/income inequality; Cultural identities
Mission and Vision of Organization
At Fresh Roots, we envision a world where everyone has access to healthy food, land, and community.
At Fresh Roots, we cultivate engaging gardens and programs that catalyze healthy eating, ecological stewardship, and community celebration.
What We Do
At Fresh Roots, we enact our mission through Schoolyard Market Gardens, educational farms that we utilize as pathways to youth empowerment and employment. We facilitate outdoor experiential learning with teachers and students; mentor youth leaders through garden clubs and summer programming; host internships for high school–aged youth, fostering self-confidence, leadership, and employment skills; and empower Vancouverites to grow their own food through our volunteer programs. All our food is sold into the school community—into cafeterias, food-access programs, markets, and to our neighbours. We also work with other schools and organizations to develop their own market gardens and associated programming. We are a thought leader in institutional food-systems change and outdoor experiential learning.
Mandate & Terms of Reference for the Vancouver Food Policy Council
The Vancouver Food Policy Council (VFPC) is an official civic agency that advises Vancouver City Council and staff on improving food sustainability in Vancouver, including program and policy changes to improve the local food system. We have a particular focus of advising Council and staff on the Vancouver Food Strategy as it is developed, implemented, and updated. We are comprised of city-appointed, passionate people from various sectors of the food system (find out more about us here!). We function as a bridge between citizens and civic officials, coming together to work on food policy initiatives that benefit all Vancouverites.
The VFPC meets regularly at City Hall to discuss and make recommendations to affect changes to current food policy, hear presentations by community groups engaged in food issues, and facilitate new policy development related to the food system. According to our City of Vancouver mandate, The Vancouver Food Policy Council works to help improve food sustainability in Vancouver, where food is:
- Safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate
- Affordable, available, and accessible to all
Produced, processed, marketed, consumed, and waste products reused or managed in a manner that is:
- Financially viable
- Protects the health and dignity of people
- Minimally impacting the environment
According to our Terms of Reference, our scope of work includes policy advice, collaboration, and awareness and outreach.
The Food Policy Council:
- Provides input to City Council and staff about issues of concern
- Considers any matters which may be referred to the Policy Council by City Council or staff
- May take positions on policy initiatives from other levels of government within the mandate of the Policy Council
- Advises Council and staff on the Vancouver Food Strategy as it is developed, implemented and updated
The Food Policy Council:
- Works co-operatively with other agencies whose activities affect constituent communities, including initiating and developing relevant projects
- Acts as a resource for staff doing public involvement processes and civic events
- Awareness and outreach
The Food Policy Council
- Exchanges information with the constituent communities and the general public about relevant programs and issues of interest
- Engages in outreach to disseminate information and encourage participation from constituent communities
- Supports groups developing projects to enhance the food system
Guiding Principles + Values
Our core values are at the heart of everything we do here at Fresh Roots. They are joy, community, inclusivity, empowerment, and lifelong learning. Our beliefs drive us towards our vision and direct our activities. We believe that good, healthy food is a right for all people. We believe that food is an inspiring and mobilizing force for good. We believe that education is the first step towards positive personal and systems change. We believe that healthy food systems are dependent upon a healthy environment and empowered communities. We believe that how we work together is as important as the work we do. We believe that collective action is imperative to food systems change.
- Primary Contact Person(s): Marc Schutzbank
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 7788725253
- Address: 5050 Wales Street Vancouver, BC V5T2R5
- Website: freshroots.ca
Preferred Method of Contact
- Best method(s) to contact: Email, Phone, Call Me!
- Best day(s) to contact: Mondays, Thursdays
- Best time(s) to contact: Mornings
Everyone should have access to Good Food - that's why Fresh Roots and the VFPC are part of the Coalition for Healthy School Food a national organization working towards universal meal programs. We want to learn about how universal meal programs are working for the New West School District and how the Fresh Roots' LunchLAB pilot at Total Education is shaping up.
What challenge or issue does the project aim to address?
Every student should have access to healthy food, land, and community. Learning is hard when you’re hungry. Children who are food insecure may have poor academic performance and social skills compared to children who do not experience food insecurity; they have poorer overall general health. (PHSA 2014).
Reducing poverty is the number one way to reduce systemic hunger. However, hunger impacts the youth who spends their lunch money on school supplies; the youth who chooses pop and chips; and the youth who forgets their meal at home after a fight with a parent. All of these youth are hungry. Ensuring that youth have a healthy meal at school can be just one more task on the tower of responsibilities that parents, grandparents, and guardians negotiate.
Canada is the only G7 nation that does not have a federal meal program. That leaves municipalities and provinces to foot the bill through a patchwork approach designated through limited CommunityLINK funding. Only $24 million dollars is spent on food programs in BC. Per child, per day, that's $0.36 (BC 2017 School District Report, Smith, Twyla, 2018). Teachers make up the difference, spending on average $30/month on student food, or 3.85M/year (BCTF 2015). 80% of teachers report having students in classrooms that come to school hungry and, as a result, those youth are irritable and tired (ibid.).
The main deliverable for this project is a literature review around universal meal programs around the world, including Canadian and BC examples. We are seeking a clearer understanding of the impacts, challenges, and successes of the New West School District's Universal Meal Program in the context of the broad literature on universal school meals. The report should also include documentation of Fresh Roots' LunchLAB program at TotalEd (photographs, interviews, survey with youth).
Student Assets and Skills (preferred or required)
- Research skills, photographic skills
- Should be comfortable public speaking
- Should be comfortable speaking with youth and adults
- Problem solving
Student Assets and Skills (to be developed through the project)
- Students should feel confident with the above skills and will also grow those skills
- In addition, students will learn how to develop research questions, and learn how to document programs
- Students will learn how to work in community settings and how to engage with diverse stakeholders.
Is a criminal record check required?
If a criminal record check is required, when should the process be initiated?
At the first community partner meeting (September 18, 2019)
- Meetings will be held at Fresh Roots' Office 5050 Wales Street Vancouver, BC
- A few program interviews will take place at Total Education: 425 E 29th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5V 2R8.
- A report will be made to the Vancouver Food Policy Council meeting at a time and location TBD
Preferred Days of Week and Hours
Mondays and Thursdays
Project/Partner Orientation Materials
Students should review these materials prior to the first partner meeting:
- About our organization
- Please request the previous LFS350 student research report on the Universal School Food program from your TA
- Coalition for Health School Food website
- Hungry for Justice: Advancing a Right to Food for Children in BC
- Rice, S. & Rud, A.G. (Eds.) (2018). Educational dimensions of school lunch: Critical perspectives. DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72517-8. (Students should read the Introduction prior to the first community partner meeting)
- Download additional background materials here (CWL login required)
Additional Project/Partner Orientation Materials
The following will be provided at the first community partner meeting:
- In person orientation.
Related Community Service Opportunities for Students
- On Farm Volunteering September 14th - October 27th
- Monday / Thursday mornings at Total Ed to be a part of LunchLAB starting October 7.
- October 3rd South Vancouver Harvest Fest: Youth led apple pressing and bake off!
- October 19th - East Van Press Fest! It's the Best - we make over 2000 lbs of apples into Apple Cider.
I hope students will learn about...
- Universal meal programs
I think students will come to appreciate...
- The challenges of our food system with respect to universal school meals
Through this project, students will develop...
- Research skills to support a long term vision for universal school meals
Intended Project (Short Term) Outcome
- VFPC and Fresh Roots will have a greater understanding as to the impact of universal meal programs, with a specific focus on Fresh Roots' LunchLAB pilot.
Medium Term Outcome
If the student project is part of a larger project at your organization, how will the students' work contribute to the goals of this larger project?
- This research helps us tell the story of universal meal programs and sharing that information more broadly, to help advance the case for a universal school meal program in Canada.
How does the student project contribute to your organization's mission and long-term vision?
- This project contributes to Fresh Roots' long-term vision of a world where everyone has access to healthy food, land, and community.