Ontario Helping More Children and Youth Access Healthy Food

$5 million investment providing nutritious meals so students can focus and succeed at school

October 05, 2023

Children, Community and Social Services

Table of Contents

  1. Content
  2. Quick Facts
  4. Additional Resources
  5. Related Topics

MISSISSAUGA — The Ontario government is investing an additional $5 million this year in the Student Nutrition Program and the First Nations Student Nutrition Program which provides more than 600,000 school-aged children and youth with healthy meals and snacks throughout the school year to ensure they are well-nourished and ready to learn.

This investment brings the total provincial funding for this year to $38 million and will help ensure the program can continue to deliver almost 90 million nutritious meals and snacks to students.

“Proper nutrition is an important foundation for academic success, and students should have access to healthy and nutritious food to support their growing minds and bodies,” said Michael Parsa, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “We are grateful for the generosity of our partners, local community members and volunteers who contribute their time and money to help the next generation succeed. I commend their work and encourage Ontarians to get involved to support the success of Ontario students.”

To build on the government’s investment in the two student nutrition programs, the province is partnering with the Arrell Family Foundation, the Breakfast Club of Canada, the Schad Foundation, the Grocery Foundation and Student Nutrition Ontario to launch the Healthy Students Brighter Ontario campaign, the first province-wide fundraising partnership of its kind.

To kick off the campaign, the partner organizations have raised $1.67 million from The Arrell Family FoundationThe Schad FoundationPeter Gilgan FoundationMaple Leaf Foods and the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, The Honourable Margaret McCain, and The Sprott Foundation. The partner organizations will continue to work with local groups and businesses to encourage community involvement and fundraise to reach a combined goal of $10 million, which includes the government’s investment.

The Student Nutrition Program is delivered in partnership with local agencies, school boards, and community partner organizations, and the First Nations Student Nutrition Program is delivered through a First Nations-led process. Both programs provide breakfast, snacks or lunch programs to school-aged children and play a vital role in supporting students’ nutritional needs and promoting positive academic outcomes.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario’s $5 million investment will be split into $4.25 million for the Student Nutrition Program and $750,000 for the First Nations Student Nutrition Program to help more children and youth access healthy food.
  • The Student Nutrition Program operates in about 4,500 or 70 per cent of provincially funded schools.
  • Countless volunteers support the program by preparing and serving food in school settings.
  • The First Nations Student Nutrition Program helps provide children and youth with access to nutritious meals and snacks at 145 sites across 63 First Nations and 27 urban Indigenous communities.
  • Additional funding for the Student Nutrition Program and the First Nations Student Nutrition Program comes from municipalities, corporate donations, industry associations, charities and other local fundraising endeavours.
  • Organizations and businesses that want to get involved can contact Student Nutrition Ontariothe Breakfast Club of Canada and the Grocery Foundation.


“It’s entirely unacceptable in a prosperous country like Canada that some students will go to school hungry. Our government has stepped up before and we are doing so again, by significantly expanding the Student Nutrition Program to ensure kids have access to nutritious food that will help support their learning and improve their physical and mental health. “

– Stephen Lecce
Minister of Education

“Setting up Ontario’s next generation for success begins with ensuring they have a strong, nutritious start to their day. Investing in Indigenous youth through the Student Nutrition Programs supports their health and well-being on a daily basis so they can focus on achieving their goals.”

– Greg Rickford
Minister of Indigenous Affairs

“The Arrell Family Foundation is proud to partner with the province to promote healthy food access for school-aged children through this critical initiative. As the Ontario government, private donors, and community members are coming together in support of the Ontario Student Nutrition Program, we look forward to working with all levels of government to ensure the health of our nation’s students.”

– Laura Arrell
Managing Director, The Arrell Family Foundation

“We are pleased to partner with the Government of Ontario. This collaboration exemplifies the power of collective action in making a meaningful impact on children’s lives because success tomorrow starts with a breakfast today.”

– Judith Barry
Breakfast Club of Canada’s Co-Founder and Government Relations Director

“When students have adequate nutrition at school, they’re empowered with the fuel they need to concentrate, learn, and grow. We applaud the Government of Ontario for making this critical investment in a healthier future for Ontario’s children and youth.”

– Claire Kealey Schad
Program Director, Schad Foundation

“The Coalition for Healthy School Food welcomes this new investment by the Ontario government in our province’s student nutrition programs. It will go a long way to helping provide students with nutritious food at school. “

– Debbie Field
National Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, representing 265 member organizations in all parts of Ontario and Canada

“Today’s announcement is important for a growing number of students in Ontario and the programs that support them during their crucial learning and development years. We are most encouraged by this investment, which comes at a critical time. We all stand to benefit when children are well-nourished and poised to thrive with access to a healthy breakfast.”

– Shaun McKenna
Executive Director, The Grocery Foundation

“As food prices continue to rise and the need for Student Nutrition Programs continues to grow, it has become increasingly challenging for programs to keep up with demand. As well, securing donations and volunteers at the local level has become a challenge. This $5 million investment from the Province of Ontario has come at a good time and is greatly appreciated; it will help programs provide much-needed nourishment for children right across our province.”

– Catherine Parsonage
Co-Chair, Student Nutrition Ontario

“We are thrilled that the government of Ontario is continuing to support the growth of this essential program in our community with increased funding. We look forward to working together to establish a long-term sustainable plan to continue to support the growing nutrition needs of the student population within Six Nations of the Grand River.”

– Kelly Gordon
Portfolio Lead, Community Health & Wellness, Six Nations of the Grand River

“When children and youth come to school hungry, it’s impossible for them to focus on learning. This is an unfortunate reality for far too many students in our schools. The funding announced today is a great step towards addressing this challenge and ensuring that all of our students have stigma-free access to nutritious foods. Students need to be fully prepared to face their learning day without worrying about where their next meal might come from. Simply put, children who are not hungry are more prepared to learn and participate in our classrooms and extra-curricular activities.”

– Cathy Abraham
President, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association

“Food insecurity is a growing crisis in Canada, with 1 in 4 children now living in a household that is struggling to access food. School nutrition programs ensure that children can learn and thrive. We are pleased to be providing support for the expansion of school food programs in Ontario.”

– Sarah Stern
Executive Director, Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security & Director, Community Involvement, Maple Leaf Foods

“As Canada faces overwhelmingly high costs of food and living, it is imperative that we support young minds with fresh, nutritious food at school. By supporting the Ontario and First Nations Student Nutrition Programs, The Sprott Foundation joins a caring community of supporters who believe that students should have access to a reliable, nourishing meal at school to fuel their potential.”

– Juliana Sprott
Chief Giving Officer, The Sprott Foundation

Additional Resources

Student Nutrition Program

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