BY BILL PHILLIPS
Children learn better on a full stomach. That’s a no-brainer.
With about 20 per cent of students in School District 57 living at, or below, the poverty level, teachers are facing the difficult challenge of getting kids who are thinking about food to think about their ABCs.
That could change. School District 27 has struck a committee to look at establishing a food program, in conjunction with partner groups, for schools in the district as part of the province’s poverty reduction strategy.
“What we’re looking at on the basis of whether we have an opportunity to improve what we already have,” said Trustee Trent Derrick, who brought the motion forward to the board. “Some schools have great food programs, some have limited food programs. It’s a way we can look at it comprehensively throughout the district and see what we can do better.”
The motion to have a committee look at the issue was unanimously passed by the board. The committee will look at what it take to provide food for students and how to involve other groups in the city.
“That’s one of the key parameters around the poverty reduction strategy is to partner,” he said. “I think is a great opportunity to take charge.”
Derrick says the benefit will be better learning outcomes for students in the district.
“Science and research has shown that kids learn quite a bit better when they have nutritious meals,” he said. “I think that’s one of the most important things that we can do … Kids with hungry bellies aren’t learning.”
Part of the committee’s mandate will be to examine how much a comprehensive district-wide food program would cost.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Derrick. “That’s our social contract is better the next generation. There have been studies and reports that say poverty is a cycle. A lot of that has to do with the first 10 years of a child’s live. If you want to tackle poverty, you have to tackle it early and give kids every opportunity to succeed later on.”
He says he would like to see the issue tackled as a broader, community issue and, hopefully, the provincial government will help.
“If we’re able to build a solid case why School District 57 needs a food program and present it to the government, as part of their strategy, we have a good opportunity,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to bring in as many partner groups as possible.”
The district is now developing the terms of reference for the committee, which will set a timeline for the committee to get its work done.
“I’m not worried about time,” said Derrick. “I’m worried about quality. I think that’s important. If we’re going to do it, we need to well, do it properly.”