A coalition of five federal agencies, including the Canadian government’s federal ombudsman for children and youth, is launching an awareness campaign that aims to raise awareness and provide school programs for children who, because of hunger or other challenges, are chronically unable to eat.
It’s a legacy project for Sylvain Charlebois, a Toronto-based food policy researcher, economist and University of Guelph professor. He sees parallels between today’s hunger issues and the original child-hunger predicament that he, as a child, once navigated.
In 2017, 1 in 10 children in Canada are enrolled in at least one meal-free program. “Over the past decades, the area where we spend the most on our kids is health care. But we forget how important it is to have healthy foods — and that we need to make sure food is available to children,” Dr. Charlebois told me by phone.
His organization, the Institut de recherche en santé et en santé publique du Québec, has collaborated with the federal government, the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, the Canadian Mint, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Unifor, a private sector union representing food and food-service workers, to create the campaign, called the Food Security Toolkit.
“Canada spends $60 billion a year on health care for the estimated seven million children in Canada — health care for those children is their responsibility,” Dr. Charlebois said. “The same money should be spent on children who go hungry. This has been our mandate since 2017, and we’re certainly working very hard to make a difference.”