Mariam Ismail Successfully Defends her PhD Thesis

The HEAL would like to congratulate Mariam Ismail who successfully defended her thesis under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland and Dr. Danielle Battram in 2020.

Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP)

Mariam Ismail successfully defended her PhD thesis titled Evaluating the implementation of the centrally procured school food program (CPSFP) in Southwestern Ontario elementary schools. Mariam completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland and Dr. Danielle Battram. During her studies, Mariam evaluated the implementation of the Centrally Procured School Food Program (CPSFP), a procurement and delivery-based school food program in Southwestern Ontario, that aims to improve elementary school-aged children’s intake of fruit and vegetables (FVs).

Canada remains one of the few industrialized nations without a national school food program, and therefore evaluating the implementation processes of this pilot program will identify the conditions and resources needed to lay the foundation for a universal school food program. Experiences of food providers, and Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP) personnel who were involved in planning, coordination, and oversight of the program, as well as those involved in the production, procurement, and distribution of foods to schools were gathered using semi-structured interviews.

The majority of participants perceived the program to be a fruitful emerging economic opportunity in Canada, in addition to improving school-aged children’s health and wellbeing. Also, findings identified a set of well-conceived and practical recommendations for future improvements including, but not limited to: (1) enhancing the engagement of all stakeholders, including children; (2) maintaining program administration; (3) ensuring sustained and flexible funding; (4) stimulating adequate communication; and (5) devising ongoing support to motivate schools who want to implement the program but feel they have a lack of capacity.

Overall, school food programs have the potential to support the health and learning of our children, transform our food systems, and foster the use of locally-produced food for strong economies. The lessons learned and suggestions presented provide guidance to future implementation of similar school food programming.

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