Food for thought on school meal programs

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 29, 2014

Photo c. 2014-Brandon Sun/ Bruce Bumstead.
Photo c. 2014-Brandon Sun/ Bruce Bumstead.

You need not look too far to see the effects of poverty in this country. All around us people are challenged by poverty, and many in our community struggle to make ends meet.

Even more alarming is the number of underemployed or lower-income families, those who are constantly pressed in making the decisions of how best to feed a hungry family. It is a sad reality of the world we live in, and a reality we have the ability to enact change upon.

That’s why this week’s news of expanded food programs in our schools is a positive, well meaning leg up for those who may feel need in this community, and moreover those who struggle with a work life balance to meet the most basic of needs.

The announcement of Maple Leaf Foods coming forward with a pot of dough for the program, and their launch of a healthy snack option in the schools is a real positive for the community and its residents. So many children lack the basic nutritional start to the day which can cause a ripple effect throughout a child’s educational experience.

Poor nutrition has been tied to a wide range of behavioural issues seen in schools, with children seeing increased trouble focusing and remaining on task, a factor which partially stems from poor nutrition or a lack of a good foundation and routine in early years.

Officially the dollar amount for the program is in the range of $35,000 per year as mentioned by Sun reporter Jillian Austin this week. This money is coupled with Maple Leaf’s commitment to bring a healthy breakfast alternative to schools. For so many families of varying income levels or erratic work schedules this will come as welcome news to the schools and programs where it is offered.

So many in this community struggle with making enough in a singular job to have either parent home to provide this meal in a timely fashion, so worthwhile programs like this act as a basis for the day for many students.

This program announcement also further proves the need and value in community partnerships in our schools. The business community has investmented in education in this city, and it needs to continue to do so. In reality so many businesses small or large feel the strain of spending at both ends for education through property and business taxes.

But if managed properly and built on a foundation of serving the needs of this city’s children it is a solid investment made in the youth who will make up the potential workforce down the road.

As a community we struggle with a visible poverty level and when you look at provincial numbers this province is ranked among the highest in both child poverty and families living below the poverty line. Brandonites must embrace this as a necessary step to take in the community.

Undoubtedly it will continue to meet with scrutiny, much like it has already from folks who say it is not their responsibility, but in the big picture so many other factors are influenced by a small step like this. If we are going to continue to invest in the growth and potential of this community, it is a necessary evil to ensure we are taking care of future generations through small programs like Food for Thought, and furthermore, if we can couple those programs with positive community partnerships, then there is an even greater benefit to that investment.

Golf course question quite divisive

I wanted to take a moment to speak to last week’s column “Should The City Remain In The Golf Course Game?” and thank everyone who read the column and provided feedback on it.

Needless to say the Wheat City Golf Course and the idea of municipally managed entities is quite divisive in this community. It was so divisive that those angling for a political placement in this fall’s civic election had best be prepared with an option for operations of this moving forward.

The question will undoubtedly come up in debate or on the doorstep and it is a question that lacks any form of easy answer, as was proven in the feedback on that particular column.

As a final mention on it, many still feel there is room for a civic entity of this nature. It is part of the city’s overall recreation plan and serves a purpose in the community.

With that said, city council and civic administration need to find clever or unique ways to market and provide the service through some form of partnership, or the question will continue to boil to the surface as to whether there is a need for a solely operated civic entity of this nature.

If we as a community do not address this question, the course itself, much like the comments received on that column, will be in a continued tug-of-war over the plan, future and operations of one of Brandon’s nicer attractions.

Shaun Cameron Political Columnist

 

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Shaun Cameron is a content contributor. A veteran of print, video and television, Shaun is a professional post-secondary employee by day, a filmmaker by night. Check out more of Shaun's work in the menu bar above.

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Shaun Cameron has worked in media for close to two decades. His work has been featured in print, internet, video, radio and television publications. A proud father of two, Shaun lives in Brandon, Manitoba with his wife Karol.

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