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Published April 1, 2024

Trudeau announces national school food program to feed 400,000 more kids per year

By Nojoud Al Mallees

The upcoming federal budget will include funding for a national school food program that will aim to provide meals to 400,000 more kids per year across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday.

Trudeau made the announcement in Toronto with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Families Minister Jenna Sudds as part of the Liberal government's pre-budget tour. 

Ottawa plans to spend $1 billion over the next five years on the national food program.

While education doesn't fall under federal jurisdiction, a national program would allow Ottawa to partner up with provinces and territories, many of which are already doing the work alongside community groups. 

In the past year, British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have allocated money toward school lunches, but on-the-ground organizations have argued for a federal partner.

"We're going to get this done by working together with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners, and expanding access to school food programs across the country," Freeland said.

"And we want to get started as early as the 2024-25 school year."

The Liberal government has long promised to launch such a program, and Trudeau campaigned on that pledge during the 2021 election.

New Democrats have been pushing the Liberal government to fulfil that promise ahead of the federal budget, which Freeland is set to present on April 16.

As cost-of-living issues continue to dominate discussion and the federal Conservatives maintain a sizable lead over the Liberals, Trudeau is pitching the federal budget as an effort to restore "fairness" for younger generations. 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has focused on the plight of young people in today's economy, commonly referring to millennials who continue to live in their parents' basement because they can't afford a home.

As Poilievre's message continues to resonate, the Trudeau Liberals appear to be trying out a new strategy ahead of the budget to garner media attention. Members of the government are touring the country to announce measures that will be included in the budget.

Last week, Trudeau announced new measures targeted at renters, including a plan to work with financial institutions to make rent payments count toward a credit score. 

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024. 

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