TORONTO: The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on the lives of Torontonians.
With many students attending school remotely due to COVID-19, the Toronto Board of Health and the City of Toronto are making Toronto Public Health’s Student Nutrition Program accessible to kids learning at home in 2021.
Research shows that when students eat healthy meals at school, they have better focus and stronger academic success. Student nutrition programs offer nutritious meals and snacks to students to give them the nutrients and energy they need to be ready to learn.
Since dietary behaviors established in childhood and adolescence can continue into adulthood, improving breakfast habits among students can also help prevent childhood and adult obesity and the early onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Before the pandemic, many vulnerable children and youth received a daily nutritious meal at school through student nutrition programs.
The City of Toronto is the largest funder of student nutrition programs supported by Toronto Public Health – this year alone we budgeted over $16 million for student nutrition.
These meal and snack programs mainly operate in Toronto public schools across 609 locations and provide meals to more than 209,420 students.
Program funds can now be used to support the families in need with remote student learners who are attending a school with a student nutrition program.
Supports can include:
• Stocking pantries;
• Extending grab-and-go programs; and
• Reinitiating Food for Kids, a program that distributes grocery food gift cards.
Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair, Toronto Board of Health, said: “No student in our city should have to start the school day hungry. That’s why we have Student Nutrition Programs that provide children and young people in need with a nutritious meal at school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to continually reimagine and adapt many of our programs and initiatives.
Extending the Student Nutrition Program to families with children who are learning remotely will help to support families and communities impacted by this virus, as another element of our COVID-19 Equity Action Plan.”
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, said “Student Nutrition Programs are a cost-effective way to promote health and learning among children and youth.
“Providing flexibility for student nutrition programs to offer support remotely during this challenging time can help address local needs and reduce the impact of the pandemic on students and their learning.”