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New research project at SickKids to study child the nutrition of children and youth during COVID-19

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. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the routines of children, and families, and affected their meal choices and eating patterns. What effect will these disruptions have on the development of children, and how they do in school? And what can be done to minimize the impact?


March is Nutrition Month, and today, 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 that will examine the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating habits of children. The researchers will also study the link between nutrition and physical and mental development and educational performance.


“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a challenge for many Canadians to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and healthy eating. This research project will provide important information on the impact of the pandemic on the eating habits of children and help families make healthy eating choices in the future.” Says, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health.


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 to12 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.


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 in 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 youth and the link to their link between their nutrition and their physical and mental development and educational performance.

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