Nutritious meals program needed
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic is calling for the federal government to support the Conference Board of Canada’s recommendation for a nutritious meals program in all schools.
“For the First Nation schools, the need for meals program in our schools, I believe, is even greater than in the provincial schools,” Kakegamic said. “We are calling the prime minister, especially the minister of Aboriginal affairs, to immediately accept the recommendations of the Conference Board of Canada and make this funding available for our communities to put meal programs in place.” Kakegamic said the link between nutrition and learning is well documented.
“We all know that children who come to school hungry find it more difficult to concentrate and to learn,” Kakegamic said. “It is an unfortunate reality that hunger and poor nutrition are a fact of life for a significant percentage of our students, particularly those who live in one of the 34 isolated remote communities where the cost of groceries is so much greater than in the south.”
Kakegamic said the cost of food in the 34 remote and isolated communities is “triple the price” due to high transportation costs.
The Conference Board of Canada report, Enough for All: Household Food Security in Canada,
recommended that all schools in Canada should provide meals programs to their students to alleviate hunger and poor nutrition and to support their performance in school.
Announced on Aug. 27, the report found that about 2 million people in Canada, about 7.7 per cent of Canadian households, self-report as being food insecure, a situation where nutritious food is sometimes or always unavailable or unaffordable.
“As students head back to school this fall, only some will have the benefit of good meal programs operating across the country,” said Alison Howard, principal research associate and co-author of the report. “Canada is the only G8 country without a national school-based feeding program.”
The report indicated that household income has the greatest impact on whether a household or family will be food insecure, noting that children deprived of proper diets are less healthy and less likely to succeed at school, which affects their physical and economic well-being for the rest of their lives.
“Children that lack proper diets are less able to concentrate and perform well at school, which makes it more difficult to learn the skills they will need as adults,” Howard said.
“Ensuring that all children and youth have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods for their everyday activities are critical for a vulnerable population.”
The report identified three short-term actions: collaboration among industry, government and communities to make food more accessible to households; support for outreach efforts to the isolated and at-risk populations, such as Aboriginal peoples, lone-parent families, women, children, recent immigrants and the elderly; and encouragement of volunteerism and engagement in food security initiatives.
Five long-term actions were also suggested: improving food literacy levels; making public transportation more affordable for low-income households; ensuring agricultural policies address household food security; investing in strategies to address low income/poverty; and tracking, studying, and evaluating household food security initiatives to find effective programs to support and replicate.
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