It was with a mix of dismay and non-surprise that I read about the problems with the lunches for students at Cedarbridge.
In my platform for the 2012 General Election I called for the following, all of which tie into this current issue:
“Tax junk food to subsidise healthy food. Convene a panel of public health and nutrition specialists to develop respective lists of junk-foods and healthy foods, and set increased duties/taxation for junk-foods with the subsequent revenue being used to directly and proportionally reduce the cost of healthy foods.”
“Establish a commission to investigate additional obstacles to healthy eating in Bermuda and renew its recommendations for overcoming these obstacles.”
“Provide free and nutritious breakfasts and lunches for all students.”
I advocated for these things because I believe:
- We have some serious distortions to our diets which manifest themselves in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which represent an avoidable cost to our health-care expenses, and I believe these are likely also influenced strongly by race and class (in as much as the two are generally correlated in Bermuda due to our segregationist history).
- There are obstacles, again race and class influenced, that are affecting the ability of all to have access to healthy diets.
- Diet is VERY important for educational performance and ensuring long-term health for children.
- Providing such meals in schools only for the needy can lead to issues relating to dignity, by singling out the needy, and so it is better to allow people to ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ for this system.
- There are cost-savings through economies of scale by providing nutritious breakfasts and lunches for all students.
- All too often domestic labour, including cooking and providing packed lunches, is done by female members of the family, and so reinforces sexist stereotypes and serves as an ‘opportunity cost’ for female family members – by providing breakfasts and lunches to all students at school, it reduces the sexist burden of domestic labour somewhat.
While I appreciate that some people will say it costs too much to implement this (nutritious breakfasts and lunches for all students), to me it actually would represent an overall saving in the long-term in terms of increased educational attainment, reduced health-care expenses for avoidable ‘lifestyle diseases’ and even helping address some of the stress and opportunity costs related to the sexist distribution of domestic labour which still persists in our society.
See also this post by Bermuda Blue, expressing his thoughts on why we need more of a social safety net in Bermuda.