Centre For Family Equity

School food research with low-income parents

May 15, 2023

In June 2022 we carried out research to discover the school food experiences of low-income families at 13 schools in BC. The research was a collaboration supported by the BC Chapter of the Coalition for Healthy School Food to impact the provincial and federal campaigns for school food and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Canada as related to school food. 

One focus group was open to all parents and caregivers in BC, while the other two were targeted to inner-city designated schools with a higher concentration of low-income students in the City of Vancouver. A total of 19 diverse parents and caregivers from 13 schools attended the focus groups.  

Through open-ended questions, we explored parents' and caregivers' experiences and visions for school food programs. The discussions highlighted that access to healthy and nutritious meals, accompanied by food literacy education, is a priority for parents and caregivers across the board. Our focus groups showed that parents and caregivers support the campaign for a universal school food system due to its potential to provide healthy and nutritious food to children, regardless of their family's income and status.

We released our report A Universal School Food System for BC: SMA Research and Policy Brief with a letter of recommendations highlighting our findings to the government and other stakeholders in October 2022. 

In the new budget released in February 2023, the Province announced $214 million in new spending for school food over three years through the Feeding Families initiative within the Ministry of Education and Child Care in the 2023 budget.


“Available subsidies for low-income parents are not communicated and parents have to jump through hoops to get the info about support. So, it's kind of confusing and uneven, and it's not really clearly offered. You kind of have to find out [what is available] and that's all extremely awkward.” 

-school food focus group parent participant 


“Universal school lunch covers so many needs at once. Because it meets my personal need, as a mother, to have any sort of practical help with the immense challenge of raising a child from infancy to adulthood. It keeps my kid nourished. A universal school lunch also means every kid is nourished, the same, like there's equality about that. So, it is fundamentally egalitarian.”

-school food focus group parent participant