After spending the last few weeks thinking and talking a lot about the inadequacies of social assistance—and the hunger and ill health that inevitably results for those struggling to live on welfare—I’m reminded of what a huge difference a national nutrition program for school-aged kids could make in the lives of low-income families.
Canada is one of the few developed nations in the world that doesn’t have such a program. England has one, France treats its public school students to four-course meals every school day. In Japan, the nutritious lunch is as much a part of the curriculum as gym or math. Even Brazil (generally considered a developing nation) provides all school children with a fresh, healthful, free lunch.
Here in Toronto, where one in four children live in poverty, and 1/3 of food bank users are kids, we expect students to bring their lunch from home. There are some organizations, like Breakfast for Learning, that provide food at some schools (according to the Toronto District School Board 90,000 children depend on free meals in this city), but relying on a patchwork of volunteers and charitable donations—however good and generous—is hardly adequate for something so important.
More on the Canadian situation this week….