Three Niagara MPPs call on Ford government for action as school nutrition programs getting closed

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Published April 20, 2023 at 11:34 am

From left, Niagara Centre's Jeff Burch, Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates and St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens

The Niagara Region’s three NDP members at Queen’s Park – Niagara Centre’s Jeff Burch, Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates and St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens – are calling on the Ford government for action after the recent closure of 16 school nutrition programs in the area.

Stevens brought the matter up at Queen’s Park on April 19, saying the Niagara Nutrition Partners program has a shortfall of over $400,000, which has affected 49 programs across the Region.

“The Niagara Nutrition Partners program has a shortfall of over $400,000, which has resulted in the closure of 16 school nutrition programs and affected 49 programs across the Niagara Region,” Steven said.

“The program operates 201 programs that offer breakfast, snack, morning meal, and lunch across 3 school boards. With these closures, there are hundreds of kids unable to access these services right now.”

Minister for Children Community and Social Services Michael Parsa shot back that no student will ever go hungry under his watch and the Ford government has increased funding to such programs.

He also veered off-point, saying the NDP support of the Carbon Tax was causing increased cost of living to provincial residents.

In a letter penned to the government by Gates, Stevens and several other MPPs called the Ministry lacking when it came to inflation.

“It appears that The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has not meaningfully increased base funding for the program in an Ontario budget since 2014, despite historic inflation,” the letter noted. “As a result, many schools are struggling to provide adequate nutrition to their students this year, forcing many to fall below the Canada Food Guide, which is a standard for the service guidelines set out by your own Ministry.”

“Investing in school nutrition programs is essential for our students’ well-being, and it is your responsibility to ensure that these programs are kept running, so all children have the chance to access nutritious meals. Ontario is the only province in Canada that has not made meaningful base funding increases for our school nutrition programs within the last 24 months.”

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