A new report from Nova Scotia's auditor general is finding a majority of schools aren't following the province's food and nutrition policy, which she said needs an update.
Kim Adair's team surveyed schools across the province, and visited 26 of them in person in four regional centres for education, including in Halifax. They found only 40 per cent of them were following the policy.
"Schools need to do a better job when it comes to lunch," she told media Tuesday. "We found inconsistencies in the nutritional value of the foods offered to students, and the majority of the schools tested are not complying with the provincial policy."
"The Department [of Education] doesn't know if healthy foods are being served in schools because of the lack of monitoring."
According to the report, almost 60 per cent of province's schools use a third-party food service provider to run their cafeterias, and only nine per cent of those tested were following the policy.
"Based on our discussions with administrators we concluded that the main reason this may be happening is because third-party providers are typically profit driven," the report stated. "They therefore would be likely to focus on what food items will sell, not
necessarily providing the healthiest food options."
Nova Scotia's Food and Nutrition Policy was created in 2006 to ensure students were being served healthy options, but Adair said it's now outdated.
"It's based on the 1992 Canada Food Guide, even though newer versions were released in 2007 and 2019," she said.
The report did find success when it comes to breakfast programs.
"On a typical day, about 43,000 students access the free program, which is offered in about 98 per cent of the schools," the auditor general explained. "The schools we visited generally offered healthy breakfast foods."
There are 125,000 public school students in the province, and according to Adair, for some of them, the only healthy food they have access to is at school.
"The province really has a crucial role to play in shaping their future," she explained.
"Healthy food choices can have a significant effect on learning readiness and academic success, and they can also set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating."
She said if changes aren't made, that could add up to billions of dollars in health care costs down the road.
The auditor general has offered up 10 recommendations, all of which have been agreed to by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.