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Empty Cupboards, Blank Minds
Canada is lagging behind other G8 nations when it comes to fighting child hunger. A recent report, "Enough for All" created for the Centre for Food in Canada suggests the solution may be a national, government funded school-based feeding program.
We are a strong nation, yet according to Alison Howard, researcher for the “Enough for All” report, we are the only G8 country without one. The report states Canada needs to create this program and start the conversation on ending child hunger.
Food insecurity is the inability to find the quantity or quality of food necessary to survive. As of 2011 statistics, 7.7% of Canadian households were listed as facing food insecurity, meaning 2,577,705 Canadians are sending their children to school on an empty stomach. 17% of Canadian children under the age of 18 were defined as food insecure, according to the report “Household Food Insecurity in Canada.” It describes how almost all people with food insecurity do not have the financial ability to feed themselves or their children. A significant amount of people ate less to feed their children, were not able to afford balanced meals, or even sent their children to school hungry. Shockingly, they found 2% of children went a whole day without food. As Sarah Anderson of the Daily Bread Food Bank shares, about 32% of the people coming to food banks are children.
Poor nutrition has a direct effect on a child’s ability to perform in and out of the classroom. An increase in obesity, lack of attention, depression and suicide are only some of the risks. By creating a school-based feeding program that includes all meals, children will be given an academic edge. Kids who eat breakfast meet nutritional targets to develop their body and mind. Where there are meal programs, schools had better attendance, improved test scores and fewer dropouts.
To create this program, provinces and territories “must start the ball rolling…as education is their jurisdiction” states Alison Howard. “We need to start conversations…where stake holders can get together, make decisions and take action.” By looking at other examples of meal programs, Canada can create an effective feeding program for schools. With ongoing assessments, and teaching food literacy to students and teachers, the program can continue to grow and provide children with well balanced meals. With the necessary nutrition, children will have the tools they need to succeed.
For further information, visit the Centre for Food in Canada, www.conferenceboard.ca and look for their strategy report in March 2014.
To help end the fight against child hunger in schools, visit http://saynotohunger.ca/ and sign their petition.
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