Photo Credit: Breakfast Club of Canada

Breakfast Club of Canada was looking forward to the 2023 Fall Economic Statement with great anticipation. After meeting with key government stakeholders in Ottawa on Monday, November 20th, and after months of discussions, the Government of Canada seems to be insufficiently recognizing the gravity of the situation, especially with regards to the crisis of food insecurity among students.

Breakfast Club of Canada acknowledges the efforts made by the federal government to assist the middle class. However, it is evident that the announced measures are not sufficient to address the needs of vulnerable groups, particularly children. Over the past few years, Breakfast Club of Canada and various other organizations have expressed serious concerns. Yet, while the last few months have been marked by severe economic uncertainty for families, the government has still not implemented the National School Food Program it committed to nearly five years ago. This initiative was initially announced in the Budget 2019, then included as an election promise in the Liberal Party of Canada's 2021 Platform.

"As Canada's only national school nutrition delivery organization, we express our dissatisfaction with the federal government's Fall Economic Statement, which falls significantly short in addressing the urgent crisis faced by children. The latest budgetary allocations lack the comprehensive measures necessary to effectively address access to nutritious food for all in our society. Urgent action is needed to ensure no child goes to school hungry. The Liberals should have by now honoured their electoral promise of 2021 to prioritize the well-being of the nation's children by revisiting and reinforcing its commitment to implementing a National School Food Policy. This year, once again, it is failing on its promises to children ", comments Tommy Kulczyk, President and Chief Executive Officer at Breakfast Club of Canada.

Food insecurity in Canada is the worst it's ever been
According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, household food insecurity has reached a record high in Canada's ten provinces. The University of Toronto's latest report on Household Food Insecurity in Canada, drawing on the Canadian Income Survey by StatCan, reveals that the percentage of households facing inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints increased from 15.9% in 2021 to 17.8% in 2022. This translates to 6.9 million Canadians, including almost 1.8 million children under the age of 18.

Families with low-income are at the greatest risk of food insecurity, with rates nearly doubling the overall average (35% compared to 18%). However, the majority of families experiencing food insecurity have incomes that surpass the poverty threshold. In fact, approximately 80% of families dealing with food insecurity fall above the poverty line.

These estimates don't include people living in First Nations or territories where rates of food insecurity are typically even higher.

"We are at a critical time as families and children in Canada are grappling with an affordability crisis of unprecedented scale. The Fall Economic Update would have been a good opportunity for the federal government to intervene and to prioritize investments in school nutrition programs, ensuring that every student across the country has access to the essential nutrients crucial for unlocking their full potential. It has used this platform on several occasions in recent years for budget announcements in exceptional situations. And we've reached an exceptional situation," adds Judith Barry, Co-Founder and Director, Government Relations.

At the end of October, the federal government released a What We Heard Report following public consultations to seek feedback on a National School Food Policy. While the report outlines the desired characteristics of a prospective school food program, no information regarding the subsequent steps or the timeline for implementation has been disclosed.

Breakfast Club of Canada will continue its efforts in the weeks and months ahead to work with the Government of Canada, as well as public and private partners on the development and implementation of a National School Food Program.

SOURCE: Breakfast Club of Canada