Toronto Public Health is pleased to announce that City Council approved expansion funding for the 2019/20 school year for student nutrition programs in eligible independent schools serving higher need communities.

The Toronto Board of Health recognizes that some independent schools may have a student population with a similar level of need to some public schools which offer student nutrition programs. A student nutrition program can help provide a more equitable environment for children and youth to learn and succeed.

This funding opportunity is intended to help offset the cost of nutritious food offered by student nutrition programs operating in independent schools. If awarded, the municipal funding will cover only a small portion of student nutrition program costs. The remaining costs must be raised by the school/community.

Funding Eligibility Screening Criteria

To be assessed for funding eligibility, the independent school must meet the following screening criteria.

The school must:

  • Physically operate in the City of Toronto
  • Have at least 85% of the students enrolled living in the City of Toronto
  • Run a full time program teaching elementary and/or secondary school grades
  • Not offer only a summer or weekend program
  • Have facilities to safely prepare and store food, in accordance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17, and
  • Agree to provide the postal codes for all students enrolled in the school.

If your school meets the screening criteria, please complete the screening questionnaire (find link below) to determine eligibility to apply for funding.

Screening Process

Step 1: Complete the screening questionnaire (find link below).

Step 2: If the school meets the screening criteria, the postal code template will be available for download.

Step 3: Complete the postal code template.

Step 4: Email the completed postal code template to
by Friday June 14, 2019 at 4 pm.

Complete Screening Questionnaire

Funding Timeline for Student Nutrition Programs in Independent Schools
May 1 & 2, 2019 Information sessions held. Find more information below.
June 14, 2019 Deadline for independent schools to complete screening questions and submit postal codes.
September 15, 2019 Schools will be notified of eligibility. Eligible independent schools will be invited to complete the Student Nutrition Program funding application.
October 25, 2019 Deadline for Student Nutrition Program funding Applications.
October – November, 2019 Notification of funding.
By  December 31, 2019 Funding allocated to eligible independent schools.

To provide more information about this funding opportunity, three information sessions have been scheduled. Please register below.

Wednesday May 1, 2019
10 am – 11 am
Maria A Shchuka Library
Meeting Room A
1745 Eglinton Avenue West

Wednesday May 1, 2019
2 pm – 3 pm
North York Civic Center
Council Chambers
5100 Yonge Street

Thursday May 2, 2019
10 am – 11 am
Cedarbrae Library
545 Markham Road

An expert panel will be available to answer questions on a variety of topics related to this funding opportunity including:

  • Student nutrition programs in Toronto
  • The screening and eligibility process required before applying for municipal funding
  • The funding application process for eligible schools

Members of the expert panel will include a Registered Dietitian, Public Health Inspector, Community Development Animator and an Epidemiologist.

Register for Information Sessions

Frequently Asked Questions

Types of Questions

  1. Independent Schools
  2. Student Nutrition Programs
  3. Step-wise Application Process
  4. Needs-Based Assessment
  5. Review Process
  6. Use of Funding
  7. Program Operations

1. Independent Schools

Q 1.1 How is “independent school” being defined for the purposes of this funding opportunity?

A 1.1 An Independent School is a business or not-for profit academic institution that operates independent of the Ministry of Education (not publicly funded).


2. Student nutrition programs

Q 2.1 What is a student nutrition program?

A 2.1 Student nutrition programs are community-based meal and snack programs that operate in schools or community sites. They provide a non-stigmatizing way for children and youth to access culturally appropriate, nutritious food during the school day.

Q 2.2 What are the benefits of having a student nutrition program in your school?

A 2.2 The goal of a student nutrition program is to ensure that students who are at-risk for poor nutritional intake have universal access to safe, adequate, and nutritious food at school. Student nutrition programs provide nutritious meals and snacks to students giving them the nutrients and energy they need to be ready to learn. Programs benefit all participants, regardless of their socio-economic status, and work best when they are available to all students within a school community.  Student’s health, learning and behaviour outcomes are improved when they regularly participate in morning time meal programs. Students form healthier eating habits which can reduce the risk of early onset of chronic disease.

Q 2.3 Is there an effective way to target students in need as opposed to the entire school?

A 2.3 Targeting programs to students in need has been shown to reduce participation by those students most in need, by stigmatization. Stigma has been consistently identified in the literature as being a challenge to student nutrition programs.  Programs which are universally accessible to all students in a school are not stigmatizing by nature; the mid-morning meal (meal served after the morning bell) model has been shown to achieve greater participation than breakfasts offered before school. Over time, and with support of the administration and school community, nutrition programs can become a normal, healthy part of the school day for all students.

Q 2.4 What is a morning meal program? How does it differ from a breakfast or snack program?

A 2.4 A morning meal consists of three food groups and is delivered in the morning after school starts.  A breakfast program also consists of three food groups; however, it is served before school starts. In contrast, snack programs serve two food groups.

Q 2.5 Why are morning meal programs recommended?

A 2.5 We encourage morning meal programs to increase the number of students able to access the programs. Offering a morning meal program has been found to increase program participation as students are not required to arrive before school starts.

Q 2.6 Do I have to make the morning meal available to all students?

A 2.6 Yes, our student nutrition programs are universally accessible programs and all students must be provided with the opportunity to participate in these programs.


3. Step-wise application process

Q 3.1 Will I be able to apply for funding for a lunch, afternoon snack or dinner program?

A 3.1 No. Only applications for breakfast, morning meal and morning snack programs will be considered for funding in eligible schools. No applications for afternoon snack, lunch or dinner programs are being accepted. Over the last decade, new program funding for eligible schools has focused on programs offered over the morning hours based on evidence and best practices identified in the literature. Any programs currently receiving funding for afternoon programs were grandfathered in during previous funding expansions.

Q 3.2 How can my independent school apply for this funding opportunity?

A 3.2 First, your school must complete the screening and assessment process which will be used to determine if your school meets eligibility requirements.  Second, independent schools that have been assessed as eligible for funding will be contacted directly by Toronto Public Health in September, 2019 and invited to submit an application form.

Q 3.3 Where can I find the screening questions and assessment tools to complete?

A 3.3 See the Screening and Assessment section above.

Q 3.4 Are all independent schools eligible for funding?

A 3.4 No. Only those independent schools which meet screening and assessment criteria are eligible for funding.

Q 3.5 I applied for a student nutrition program grant in February 2019. How is this student nutrition program funding application process different from the one that ended in February 2019?

A 3.5 The student nutrition program funding application with the February 15, 2019 deadline was for student nutrition programs that are currently receiving municipal funding. This new application process is specifically for eligible independent schools, which serve higher need communities and are not currently receiving municipal funds. Independent schools will be assessed for eligibility for funding before being invited to apply. Since your school already submitted an application in February, 2019 you will not need to submit a second application, but you will need to complete the screening and assessment processes to determine your school’s eligibility before your application can be considered for funding.

Q 3.6 If eligible, how many programs can a school receive funding for?

A 3.6 Eligible schools will only receive funding for one program.


4. Needs-Based Assessment

Q 4.1 How is a higher-needs community defined?

A 4.1 Higher-needs communities are defined as having a significant proportion of students living in lower income households.

Q 4.2 Why is a needs-assessment process required to apply for funding when this step is not used for public schools applying for funding?

A 4.2 Public schools applying for funding have been assessed for eligibility using data collected and reported by the Ministry of Education.  The assessment method for independent schools uses an assessment method comparable to the method used by Ministry of Education for public schools.

Q 4.3 How will my independent school be assessed for eligibility?

A 4.3 First, the independent school must meet the following screening criteria. The school must:

  • Physically operate in the City of Toronto
  • Have at least 85% of the students enrolled living in the City of Toronto
  • Run a full time program teaching elementary and/or secondary school grades
  • Not be a summer or weekend program
  • Have facilities to safely prepare and store food, in accordance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17, and
  • Agree to provide the postal codes for all students enrolled in the school, which will be used to assess the overall level of need of the student population.

Second, if the school meets the screening criteria, student postal codes will be used to estimate the average percentage of students living below the after-tax low-income measure within each school. The result will be used to determine whether your school population meets the required threshold for level of need. This methodology provides an objective approach to population income level assessment and is comparable to the method used to assess level of need within the public school population.


5. Review Process

Q 5.1 How many independent schools will receive funding for the 2019/20 school year?

A 5.1 At this time, it is not clear how many independent schools will apply for 2019/20 student nutrition program funding, nor is it clear how many independent schools would meet eligibility criteria for municipal student nutrition program funding. All applicants will be assessed for eligibility using an objective, transparent method comparable to that used to assess need among publicly funded schools.

Q 5.2 Do any independent schools currently receive municipal funding for a student nutrition program?

A 5.2 Since 2007, four independent schools have been operating student nutrition programs with support from municipal funding to offset the cost of food.

Q 5.3 Will schools that receive funding for the 2019/20 school year receive it for the 2020/21 school year as well?

A 5.3 Once funded, schools will continue to receive funding, provided they continue to meet program criteria.

Q 5.4 When will I be notified of the results? If I am awarded funding, when can I expect it?

A 5.4 Applicants will be notified after submitting their application, between October and November, 2019. Funds will be issued by December 31, 2019 for implementation during the balance of the 2019/20 school year.


6. Use of funding

Q 6.1 What can the student nutrition program funds be spent on?

A 6.1 Funding can only be used to support the cost of nutritious food for student nutrition program.

Q 6.2 Will the full cost of running the student nutrition program be covered by the grant?

A 6.2 No. If awarded, municipal funding will cover approximately 20% of the total program operating costs. The balance of the program costs must be raised by the funded site. These costs are often raised from parental contributions, local fundraising, and other donations.

Q 6.2 How will the amount of funding be determined?

A 6.2 Municipal funding allocations will be based upon:

  • The number of students participating per day
  • The number of days the program is offered
  • The type and frequency of meals served

Q 6.3 What criteria are associated with the funding?

A 6.3 All programs receiving a municipal grant are required to meet the following funding criteria:

  • Serve food according to the student nutrition program Nutrition Guideline
  • Be offered to all students, regardless of their ability to contribute financially
  • Serve foods that promote faiths and cultures of students
  • Submit financial and activity reports every month
  • A budget is completed based on number of children/youth planning to attend the program
  • A minimum of 70% of total program costs must be spent on food
  • Always have at least 1 person on site when the program is running who has been to the student nutrition program Food Safety and Nutrition workshop training within the past two years. Encourage all volunteer student nutrition program coordinators and other volunteers to attend this free workshop offered by Toronto Public Health


7. Program Operations

Q 7.1 What is my responsibility as a Principal?

A 7.1 As with all programs in your schools, you or your designate assist in the successful implementation of the student nutrition program by providing safe, secure and clean space and assigning responsibilities around program liaison.  Participation in the development of an active and representative nutrition committee and advocating for the integration of student nutrition into the life of the school are an important role for you and the leaders in your school. In addition, you will ensure a separate bank account is available for the program, a nutrition program coordinator is in place and, with the Student Nutrition Program committee, ensure that application deadlines and program criteria are met.

Q 7.2 What facilities are required to run a student nutrition program?

A 7.2 Student nutrition programs must prepare, store and serve food in a manner consistent with acceptable public health practices and in compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17. The goal of the Regulation is to prevent foodborne illness by educating food handlers and enforcing regulations during inspections. This is very important for student nutrition programs because children are at greater risk for foodborne illness. Public Health Inspectors are available to consult with sites to assess the current and future facility needs for safe and proper operations. Find out more information about food safety in student nutrition programs.

Q 7.3 Who is responsible for running the student nutrition program within the school?

A 7.3 The organization (school/community agency) which receives funding for the student nutrition program is responsible for organizing and running the student nutrition program. Generally, student nutrition programs are run locally by students, parents and volunteers. We encourage that sites establish a local program committee to share the responsibilities of planning and implementing the student nutrition program.

The school site authority is responsible for the successful implementation of the program by providing safe, secure, clean space and by assigning responsibilities.

Volunteers are an important part of making your program a success.  Recruit volunteers from your local school community, including parents, students, community members and staff. Parents and students can contribute to the program in a variety of ways, including financial contributions, food ordering/shopping, food preparation, fundraising, planning, preparing financial reports, program committee, special events, etc.

Q 7.4 How many people does it take for a site to run a student nutrition program?

A 7.4 The number of people required to run a student nutrition program is dependent on the number of program participants and the amount of food preparation taking place onsite. Programs that are more comprehensive will require a greater number of people to run the program.

Q 7.5 How much time is associated with running a student nutrition program?

A 7.5 The amount of time required to run a student nutrition program is dependent on the number of program participants and the amount of food preparation taking place onsite. Programs that are more comprehensive will require a greater time commitment.

Q 7.6 Who prepares the food and where does it come from?

A 7.6 The organization receiving funding is responsible for planning, buying, preparing and serving culturally appropriate, nutritious food at their student nutrition program. Typically, the student nutrition program coordinator and volunteers plan the menu and purchase the food from a preferred vendor. Food can be purchased from local grocery stores, food distributors, or catered from an inspected facility. In secondary schools, youth participation in implementing the programs will be an important resource.

Q 7.7 What type of supports are there to help my school operate a student nutrition program?

A 7.7 Program oversight and support is provided by Student Nutrition Ontario-Toronto (SNO-Toronto), with committee membership from Toronto Public Health, public school boards, public school board foundations, a community development agent, and community representatives. Staff members from these partner organizations are available to provide support to student nutrition programs:

  • A Public Health Dietitian is available for consultation regarding program menus and meeting the Nutrition Guideline.
  • A Public Health Inspector is available for consultation in your program start-up phase. Also, as mandated by the Ontario Food Premises Regulation 493/17, the student nutrition program kitchen facility and food preparation/storage areas will be inspected by a Public Health Inspector.
  • Support with start-up training and volunteer recruitment will be available from a Community Development Animator.
  • Support with monitoring and submitting monthly financial reports will be available by the agent which will flow funds to the funded site. The contact information will be available at the time of funding approval.


If you have any additional questions, please contact