Along with the three Rs, school districts have seemingly added another responsibility to their mandates – feeding hungry students.
Breakfast programs, lunch programs and free snacks are now commonplace in our schools where a number of children arrive every day without proper nutrition.
Pushing the rewind button to our hallowed halls of yesteryear, there was not a free muffin to be found in school, unless a friend or a sympathetic teacher handed it over. Some kids brought in mini-smorgasbords in their lunch boxes while others came to class with merely an apple or a couple of cookies, if that. These were the kids who were labelled poor and sadly carried around that stigma like a tire around their neck.
Many people can remember taking a bologna sandwich to school, only to take two bites and throw it in the nearest garbage can. Then they wolfed down their cream-filled Half Moons and Twinkies like there was no tomorrow, later terrified under the dentist’s drill held by an old guy who looked like Peter Cushing from Hammer Films. Times have obviously changed, and for the better.
Over the years educators have noted students coming to school with empty stomachs. In fact, many showed up without even consuming a piece of toast for breakfast, yet they were still expected to learn.
Fortunately, after seeing the writing on the wall, community groups (volunteers) and schools pooled their resources and established food programs, starting with fruit and muffin days, and eventually expanding to offer more healthy choices.
These volunteers and school officials must be commended for doing all they can to address this problem, which is everyone’s responsibility. The sentiment: it takes a whole community to raise a child is so true. We are really “Feeding Futures” here, as the name of the food program implies.
Another initiative that deserves high praise is the “Mental Health in Schools” program. Many parents can relate to having a child struggling with high anxiety these days; it’s quite common now compared to growing up in the 1970s and 80s when stress wasn’t a big issue. Back then many kids were told to “grow up” or “don’t be such a wimp” when they expressed any type of worry. And when they were bullied, their fathers told them to fight back, which is not the politically correct advice today.
Thanks to modern times, and social media pressures, anxiety and depression among youth have hit disturbing levels. More students are in need of mental health support than ever, and it is paramount that schools confront this head-on. Parents don’t often have the expertise to deal with this problem, which eats them up inside when they see their children suffering.
Kudos to the Ministry of Education and the Rocky Mountain School District for taking the reins on these crucial programs for the well-being of our kids’ future.
Lyonel Doherty, editor