Imagine you’re anywhere between the ages 5 and 18. You are sitting in class, folding the edges of your paper when teacher calls out and asks you a question. You can’t think over the sound of your stomach figurately eating itself. You didn’t eat breakfast, and that pizza pocket with a side of pop tart you had for supper just wasn’t enough.
You might feel a few things, besides the gnawing hunger… Embarrassment for not being able to spit the answer out, which then turns to self-consciousness, and maybe even frustration at the teacher for putting you in such an awkward situation. You might lash out, get detention, or better yet get diagnosed with a blanket “behavioural problem” or “learning disability.” The ripple effect that hunger might have on our community’s kids is endless, but the point is this: How do we expect Saint John and surrounding areas to rise above, progress, and produce healthy, educated individuals if those individuals are having their basic needs neglected as children? Far from being an micr0-level problem, malnourished kids are more likely to become stuck in the cycle of working class poverty due to having underdeveloped social skills and smaller educational profiles. Presently, a full 30% of Saint John’s youth live in poverty. That’s double the national average.
While some programs do exist to help struggling families feed their children, we have to come to grips with the fact that many of these food bank and in-school breakfast style campaigns are simply band-aid solutions that do not address the root of the problem. Yes, feed the children — But let’s try to solve the actual problem, which is families not having the means to do so on their own. Well nourished kids in supportive, healthy environments will reduce their socio-economic burden in the future, and give them the equal opportunity to impact their community positively. Get it? Productive people, progressive communities, more innovation to generate growth and success for everyone. A win, win, win!
Saint John needs to break away from it’s image as the “Dirty John”, because that title doesn’t just cast judgement on the health & cleanliness of our streets, but of the people on them. Of course the problem is much bigger than Saint John, but you have to start in your own backyard. Let’s capitalize on all the potential of our future generations by ensuring a good foundation.
Our people should not have to be rich to become well.