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September 05, 2021

Is it time for a national school meal program?

Parents all over the country have been packing their kids' lunchboxes this week, largely because Canada is the only G8 country without a national school meal program.

While there are stacks of local initiatives and provinces do provide some funding to subsidize meals and regulate the stuff pouring out of kitches and vending machines, the majority of families are on their own when it comes to school nutrition.

And that doesn't seem to be working out too well. There are more obese children than there ever were, prompting critics to call for a more coordinate effort to combat the problem.

But are subsidized meals the solution? Well, some people certainly think so.

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In Europe, school meal programs are seen as investments in children’s health, and not as tax drains.

France, for instance, has a well-regarded universal school meal program. Half is subsidized by the government, and parents pay the rest according to household income. The same goes for the United States.

While the U.S. program has garnered a fair share of nutritional flak, including an unflattering comparison to prison food, it clealy helps some families. And there's no question that research has found that a healthy meal at school quickly leads to increased success in the classroom.

Granted, we may be a more geographically and culturally diverse country than those in Europe, but that's no excuse for the current fragmented programs, say those advocating for a national program.  

Would you support a universal school meal program funded with public dollars?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money




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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...