EDMONTON -- The Alberta Nutrition Report Card for 2020 has been released and the province has managed to pass with a "C", showing there is room for improvement, according to experts.

The report card assesses the food and nutrition landscape in Alberta, this is the sixth year for the project.

“Poor nutrition is a risk factor for many chronic diseases and so second to tobacco, nutrition is our number one cause of poor health in Canada,” said Kim Raine, a professor at the University of Alberta.

Raine is part of the report card’s core development team. They look at 40 indicators across five environments to determine the overall grades.

“What’s available, that’s the physical environment, what messages do kids hear, what’s socially acceptable, how much does it cost, and what policies are in place,” said Raine.

“Our benchmark for food in schools is that 75 per cent of the food should be healthy. If you meet that benchmark, no problem, you get an A. If it’s really bad and there’s no effort in place then it’s an F.”

This year Alberta received an overall grade of “C”, with the breakdown as follows:

  • Physical environment – D
  • Communication environment – D
  • Economic environment – D
  • Social environment – C
  • Political environment - B

“We’re really concerned with the opportunities for kids to have healthy nutrition, healthy food,” said Raine.

“I think the biggest red flags this year, and in previous years… is the economic environment. The cost of a healthy food basket being unaffordable for someone who’s working minimum wage or who’s on social assistance.”

Additional funding from the government for healthy meals in schools is something Raine would like to see, as she said, “nutrition habits tend to track from childhood into adulthood.”

“If we’re publically funding these institutions we shouldn’t be proving people who are captive audience within them with unhealthy products that eventually down the road are going to turn into healthcare costs.”

Raine also said that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on nutrition in many cases.

One impact of the pandemic was the loss of the Alberta School Nutrition Program, which provides free meals to children at schools, when the pandemic closed schools earlier in the year.

Childcare centres have also been affected by financial issues stemming from the pandemic, which will likely affect what food they will be able to offer children, according to Raine.

More information on the breakdown of the report card is available here