Board warns of nutrition cuts

  • May 12, 2019

Catholic parents have been put on notice that their child’s breakfast is under threat from provincial budget cuts.

Toronto Catholic District School Board chair Maria Rizzo has sent a letter to parents urging them to e-mail and phone Health Minister Christine Elliott and Toronto Mayor John Tory to plead with them on behalf of 183 student nutrition programs that feed over 60,000 Catholic pupils in Toronto.

“You can’t learn on an empty stomach, so we need you to help save the program that feeds over 60,000 TCDSB students,” Rizzo wrote in her April 30 note.

At the Angel Foundation for Learning, the arm’s-length Catholic education foundation that runs breakfast and snack programs in Toronto Catholic schools, executive director Marisa Celenza is not so sure she has to worry about funding for the meal programs. The city has already announced funding for the 2019-20 school year.

“Can the city go back and withdraw that approval? I don’t think so,” Celenza said.

City Councillor Joe Cressy, who chairs Toronto’s Board of Health, thinks now is no time for a calm, wait-and-see attitude. Three-quarters of that municipal grant to fund nutrition programs actually comes from the provincial government.

“The province has announced it will reduce its share (of Toronto’s public health budget) by $64 million this year, rising to $86 million next year, ultimately rising to $107 million per year — on a (total) budget of $191 million. That is not small by any stretch,” Cressy told The Catholic Register. “If these cuts aren’t reversed, we will have to make decisions.”

Cressy’s numbers and rhetoric have Education Minister Lisa Thompson steamed.

“The City of Toronto is continuing its habit of spreading misinformation,” Thompson wrote on Twitter May 4.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government “has every expectation that public health units will continue to be properly funded as we empower municipalities to have a stronger role” in delivering public health.

In addition to plans to reduce the number of public health units in the province from 35 to 10, the province has announced it will reduce its share of public health funding from 75 per cent to 50 per cent. In a letter to Mayor Tory, Premier Doug Ford claims the change would only require Toronto to re-allocate 0.24 per cent of the city’s overall $13.5 billion budget.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.