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Examining emergent school food models during and after COVID-19

Food packages are being put together at the Roots To Harvest kitchen in Thunder Bay

Food packages are being put together at the Roots To Harvest kitchen in Thunder Bay

This research will examine emergent school food models during and after COVID-19 to inform decision-making for an urgently needed National School Food Program. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed to Canadians that food, and in particular school food, is an essential service. Suddenly, the food programs attended by more than one million students are no longer available. Fortunately, many groups that provided school food pre-COVID 19 have been sufficiently creative to provide alternative avenues. Hundreds of community organizations, schools, school boards and volunteers across Canada have developed new and innovative programs to provide meals, vouchers, gift cards and boxes of fresh foods to students and their families. With high unemployment predicted to continue even when schools reopen and projected recession, we anticipate an increased demand for school food programs. The school food landscape prior to COVID-19 was complicated and under-examined. Now, more than ever, it is critical to analyze models that could support the expansion of programs to meet the immediate and long-term needs of Canadian children and youth with respect to the six key characteristics to guide a national school food program for Canada: universality, health promoting, respectful, connected, multicomponent, and sustainable. This research can provide direction on how to take action on each of these characteristics and implement evidence-based practices.

We have assembled a transdisciplinary team of academics and community-based organizations working in every region of Canada to examine the current innovation through survey research and case studies, both during this unprecedented time and through until schools transition back to regular operation. Our team includes 11 interdisciplinary academics from early career to senior investigators who are members of the Canadian Association for Food Studies’ School Food Working Group (CAFS-SFWG) and the 125 members of the Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF). Consistent with a proposal that is national in scope the team works in all regions of the country. They will be assisted by CHSF members and trainees, in every province and territory, in cities and towns, and who speak French and English.

Updated May 2020


Debbie Field
Mustafa Koc
Ian Mosby
Rachel Engler-Stringer
Mary McKenna


Project dates

May 2020 to Spring 2021


Funding source and amount: Submitted to CIHR, under review.