Canadian School Food Programs and the Prospect of Linking Farms and Schools in Regional Agri-Food Value Chains
This dissertation investigates the state of, and future prospects for, school food programming in Canada. The aim of this dissertation is to unpack the institutional complexity of school food programs in Canada and assess the operational aspects and economic opportunity of bringing locally grown food or the ‘farm-to-school’. This mixed methods research combines theoretical reflection and empirical approaches to assess prospects for linking local food to children’s health and education as well as the necessary supports for scaling a farm-to-school approach to school food procurement across Canada to benefit students, families, and the Canadian agri-food sector. This dissertation was informed by conceptual and analytical frameworks from economic sociology, local food systems, social movements, social policy, and program development literature. The results provide both a broad overview of the diversity and unevenness of school food programming across Canada through a systematic survey of provincial and territorial government program funders and an in-depth examination of farm-to-school programming in the Province of Ontario through an economic contribution analysis of intermediated local school food procurement followed by a qualitative analysis farm-to-school supply chain actors’ experiences participating in values-based supply chains. For example, it was found that most school food programs (SFPs) in Canada are breakfast programs in elementary schools coordinated by female volunteers; schools heavily rely on donations from community groups, charities, and private sector donors as provincial and territorial governments most often only offer modest funding and formal local food procurement objectives and activities are uncommon but growing in prevalence. This dissertation contributes to scholarship on school food program reach and implementation that has not been systematically examined since the 1990s in Canada, as well as conceptual and practical implications associated with program expansion, governance, and opportunities in the realms of public food procurement and economic development.