People often ask us why anyone in a rich country like Canada ever lives in poverty. The answer to that question can be very simple - or it can be very complex. The simple answer is that we're all at risk of experiencing poverty - even briefly - if specific conditions in our lives change suddenly.
Here's a quick quiz to determine if you could experience poverty:
- Could you lose your job?
- Could you be injured?
- Could your family structure change?
- Could your mental health change?
- Could your industry face challenges?
If you said yes to any of the above questions, you could be at risk of living in poverty at some point in your future!
Child poverty is high in Canada. An estimated 1.1 million kids in Canada live in poverty and suffer from hunger. Almost 40% of those who use food banks are children and youth. And you may be shocked to learn that Canada is the only G8 country without a fully national, school-based feeding program!
Where there’s poverty there’s hunger. Malnourished kids’ brains struggle to perform basic memorization skills. They struggle to identify letters which affects their reading. Hungry kids avoid group activities because they can’t keep up. So they are alone and ashamed. With empty stomachs they often doze and so fall even further behind. Being “different” they are often picked on. Out of their pain some become aggressive with others. All this has the potential to undermine their social and even economic well being for a lifetime.
It’s estimated that where schools have a breakfast feeding program teachers gain an additional 30 minutes a day in effective teaching time. Schools with meal programs have better attendance, improved test scores and fewer dropouts. Good nutrition leads to better academic performance.
Food security is not assured for all Canadians. For a number of reasons, many families are unable to adequately meet their food needs. School food programs have been one response to this problem. But have school food programs been a sound response? what do we know abou the delivery and outcomes of school food programs?
Health Canada recently completed a three-phase review of school-based nutrition and feeding programs*. In Phase 1, interviews were conducted with provincial government officials about existing programs within thier jurisdictions. During Phase 2, an analytic literature review was commissioned on teh role of brakfast programs in contributing to children's mood, behaviour, and ability to learn.
This article is a condensed version of the work commissioned for Phase 3 of the project. The objective of this phase was to analyze whether school food progras are an appropriate social policy choice for children.