Healthy bodies, healthy minds

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Last week, the Alberta government announced it will spend another $10 million to bring a school nutrition program piloted earlier this year.

Back at the start of the year, 14 school divisions got $250,000 to run some type of nutrition program, which basically equated to students getting nutritious meals at 33 schools.

Now, every school division — including Pembina Hills Public Schools and Evergreen Catholic Schools (St. Mary) — will get $141,000.

We know that there are breakfast and hot lunch programs sprinkled throughout Pembina Hills, including Swan Hills and Dunstable School. We know they have been offered elsewhere to varying degrees of success.

Usually, the downfall of these initiatives is funding, especially with food getting more and more expensive.

So we definitely applaud the province for funding this initiative.

That kids come to school hungry is undeniable. A few years ago, it was estimated that one in seven Canadian children goes to school hungry; while time may have passed, it’s likely that the statistic hasn’t improved.

Of course, you might cluck your tongue at the notion of funding “charity” with taxpayer dollars. It’s sad these kids don’t have lunches to eat, but why is that your problem?

Well, hold on there. Numerous studies have shown that students’ diet has a direct effect on school success, which makes perfect sense if you think about it. Simply put, hungry kids don’t learn as well.

If we fund public education on the basis that educating kids helps them grow up to be productive members of society, then we also have a vested interest in ensuring kids have proper nutrition so that they can learn.

Sure, the benefits aren’t tangible. You can’t say, “Children’s test scores rose 50 per cent when we started feeding them every morning!” A sudden variance in grades could be the result of a whole range of factors.

You have to have faith that such programs are worthwhile and will ultimately pay off long-term dividends — it’s not as though $10 million is a huge sum, even in an economic downturn.

And in fact, we would argue that during such a downturn, a nutrition program like this is even more needed.

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