New research project at SickKids to study the nutrition of children during COVID-19 pandemic

News release

March 10, 2022 – Toronto, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Evidence shows that good nutrition and healthy eating promote the development of children and supports their performance in school. We also know that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the routines of children and families and affected their meal choices and eating patterns. How will this impact children’s development and how well they do in school? And what can be done to mitigate these impacts?

Today, in the context of Nutrition Month, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health and his Parliamentary Secretary, Adam van Koeverden announced funding of nearly $1 million for a new research project. This project will examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating habits of children and the link between their nutrition and their physical and mental development and educational performance.

The project will be led by Dr. Catherine Birken, a Paediatrician and Senior Scientist in the Child Health Evaluative Sciences program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. Dr. Birken and her team will engage the TARGet Kids! study cohort to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the eating behaviours, dietary intake, and food environment of children aged 0 to 12 in the Greater Toronto Area. The study will also investigate how these changes have potentially impacted motor, cognitive, language, emotional and behavioural development, school readiness, and academic achievement. The research team will also test a nutrition-focused virtual intervention for children aged two to five to equip parents with the skills and resources they need to promote healthy eating behaviours that can help improve the nutrition, development and education outcomes in children.

This funding is provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as part of its ongoing investments in research to support Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quotes

“It’s no secret that the pandemic has taken a toll on healthy lifestyles, including physical activity and healthy eating, and this goes for families and kids too. Through the TARGet Kids! study, Dr. Birken’s team will examine the impact of the pandemic on the nutritional habits of children. Thanks to this program, parents everywhere will be better equipped to fuel their kids’ success!”

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health

“By helping children establish healthy eating habits early in life, we will support their development and help them achieve their dreams – whether it’s in the classroom or on the playing field. This research will provide parents with new tools to give their children the nutrition they need to reach their full potential.”

Adam van Koeverden
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Milton

Quick facts

  • Research has been a key part of the Government of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Since March 2020, CIHR has invested $328 million in more than 800 COVID-19 research projects, spanning diagnostics and potential treatments to public health responses and communication strategies.

  • This research is also providing insights into the impact of the pandemic on the lives of Canadians.

  • CIHR is providing $999,595 to support a new research project at SickKids that will examine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating habits of children and the link between their nutrition and their physical and mental development and educational performance.

Associated links

Contacts

Marie-France Proulx
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
mediarelations@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

Sarah Warr
Senior Communications Advisor
The Hospital for Sick Children
sarah.warr@sickkids.ca

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

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