Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2016

Evaluating the impacts of an innovative centrally-procured school food program on student nutrition and the local food economy

Project Description

The Human Environments Analysis Laboratory (HEAL) at Western University is researching an innovative centrally-procured school food program (CPSFP) of the Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP). The CPSFP will be offered at 30 elementary schools in Southwestern Ontario, providing children with fruit and vegetable snacks each day. Using centralized procurement practices, the program aims to improve the nutritional quality of food being offered through the existing school snack program, to positively impact children’s health and development.

The CPSFP offers an innovative delivery method, providing a dietitian-approved menu of fresh, centrally-procured fruits and vegetables that are brought directly to schools. Unlike traditional models where the nutritional quality and sources of food vary greatly by school, this method offers food of consistent high-nutrient quality, guaranteed to follow the 2016 Student Nutrition Program Guidelines set forth by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

The multidisciplinary research team based out of the HEAL includes investigators from Western, Brescia University College, and the University of Windsor who will conduct rigorous evaluations of the program at various stages of the intervention. Currently, there have been very few formal evaluations of school nutrition programs in Canada, highlighting the need for data-driven investigation and results. Using a rigorous experimental study design with pre and post evaluations, the HEAL team will investigate the CPSFP program and its impact on children’s eating patterns.

The CPSFP program is also innovative in its secondary objective to strengthen the local economy and sustainability of the food system. Most traditional school nutrition programs do not consider the geographic origins of food purchased, while the CPSFP requires a minimum of half of all food to be locally sourced. This central-procurement approach subsequently strengthens the local food economy.

The outcomes of the study intend to provide compelling research to showcase the positive impact of a centrally-procured school food program on children’s eating patterns, food knowledge and health outcomes. Currently, Canada is one of few industrialized countries without a universal school food program. The knowledge gained form this research project will help to influence practice and policy around student nutrition and establish a case for a national school food program.


Dr Jason Gilliland

Dr. Gilliland is an award-winning teacher and researcher known internationally for his research examining geographical influences on children’s health and well-being, including studies on the role of food environments on children’s dietary behaviours and obesity. In 2009, he was recognized with the prestigious Julian » More Info

Dr. Jamie Seabrook

Dr. Seabrook teaches classes in research methods, statistics, nutritional epidemiology, and nutrition through the life cycle at Brescia University College. His research and scholarly interests include socioeconomic status and health inequality across the life course, fetal origins of adult disease, improving food skills of young adults, » More Info

Dr Danielle Battram

Dr Danielle Battram PhD, RD is an Associate Professor and Registered Dietitian in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Brescia University College. She completed all her graduate degrees from the University of Guelph in the School of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, in the areas of exercise physiology, » More Info

Dr. Colleen O’Connor

Dr. Colleen O’Connor obtained her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Foods and Nutrition from Brescia University College at Western University before earning a Master of Science degree from the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba. This was followed by a dietetic practicum to » More Info

Dr Paula Dworatzek

Dr Paula Dworatzek is Chair and Associate Professor in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Brescia University College, an affiliate of Western University. Dr. Dworatzek is also a Registered Dietitian with practical experience in community settings. She has developed a methodology for direct food observation in » More Info

Dr. Sarah Woodruff

Dr. Sarah Woodruff is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. She is a multidisciplinary researcher who strives to advance the knowledge surrounding nutrition, physical » More Info