PAUL ORLOWSKI, PHD
Department of Educational Foundations
College of Education
University of Saskatchewan
I am writing in support of a unique and wonderful idea put forth by the non-profit organization called Pilot Project for Universal Lunches (PPULS). The idea that PPULS is working on is to procure school division support for the universal lunch program pilot project.
In August 2014, I led a group of 20 graduate students to Finland for a course that focused on the Finnish school system. The purpose of the course was to offer the grad students a learning experience in another country, of course, but it was also to see best practices in Finland, a country renowned for its excellent school system. If a practice looked superior to what we have here in Saskatchewan, then perhaps we should consider implementing it in our schools. One of the students in the group is Rhea Good, a teacher in your school division. Rhea was inspired by what she saw in Finland, and this led her to create PPULS.
We visited two schools in Finland and it was obvious from everyone we spoke with that their universal lunch program is considered to be an unmitigated success. The social stigma for students of poverty associated with receiving a “free” lunch is absent in the Finnish context. Moreover, if all students, regardless of the socioeconomic status of their family, receive the same healthy lunch, the playing field is leveled in terms of academic performance. This is undoubtedly a factor in Finland’s internationally superior PISA test scores, and it must also be a major influence for the lack of variance in academic performance across social classes in Finland.
But issues of equity are only part of the reason that Finland’s universal lunch program is so successful. Students learn about nutritious and healthy eating habits – the lunch program in Finland only offers healthy options. By extension, the students grow into adults who understand the importance of healthy eating. Moreover, every caregiver to a school-aged child in Finland does not have to be concerned with shopping for and making lunches each school day.
These are the reasons why I wholeheartedly support PPULS’ idea for a universal lunch program in your school division. To pilot such a program will position your school division in a leadership role across the province, something everyone associated with your schools can take pride in. If we can borrow this best practice from the Finns, it will benefit everyone in Saskatchewan.
LAURIE KARDYNAL-BAHRI, B.ED., M.ED.
Principal, Elk Island Catholic School Division, Alberta, Canada
B. Ed., M. Ed.
I am writing this letter in support of the lunch program pilot being implemented in North Battleford. As a principal of a large middle school in Alberta, I can see how this type of program would be of great benefit to a school and community.
I spent 2 weeks in Finland in August 2014, studying the Finnish education system through the University of Saskatchewan, College of Education grad studies program. This opportunity helped me to see the advantage of a system that puts children and their educational needs first. The Finnish government is dedicated to nurturing the whole child, and values supporting children’s physical, social, and psychological needs, so students are at their best for learning. The Finns understand that they are helping foster their future citizens, and do their best to support children in every way.
One of the major ways that the Finns support students, is by providing a daily lunch program. Healthy, hot and free lunches are provided to all students every day. This is done to ensure that students are well-fed and ready to learn. They want all students to have equal access to education, which includes a healthy meal. The role of school meals also serves as a pedagogical tool to teach good nutrition, table manners, healthy eating habits as well as to increase consumption of vegetables, fruits and berries, etc. (Finnish National Board of Education).
In the hierarchy of needs, children can’t learn if their base physiological need of food isn’t met.
A lunch program modeled after the Finns, would be a great benefit to children in school. Students would be able to learn on a full stomach without worrying if they had something to eat, or if what they had was healthy and enough to sustain them through the day.
At St. Theresa Catholic School, we have a cafeteria with hot food available every day for students. Approximately 80% of the choices are healthy for children. However, parents pay for this service and many children cannot afford to purchase lunches. As principal, I would like to see a full meal offered for all students so that families would rely on this instead of sending the sugary "snack foods" that seem to be called "lunch." I would then not have to worry about the child who forgot his lunch, and there would be significantly fewer lunch related issues.
I commend Rhea Good and her team for getting a lunch program piloted in the community of North Battleford. This is a noble pursuit with the possibility for positively impacting education and the lives of young people.
HERB SUTTON, B.ED., M.ED.
Former Teacher, Principal, Director of Light of Christ Catholic School Division, North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada
Community Safety Coordinator
City of North Battleford
It is my pleasure to provide this letter of support for a proposed school meal program in North Battleford. As a former teacher, in-school administrator, and district administrator, I have seen an overwhelming amount of research and anecdotal evidence that supports a structured, healthy meal program for students.
In my current role as the Community Safety Coordinator for the City of North Battleford, I also see benefits from a safety perspective. Students who have success in school tend not to become involved in criminal activities and the criminal justice system. Our justice system and jails are full of people who have low literacy levels, and have not experienced learning success. An initiative such as this that provides consistency and rigour to such a critical component of the student learning process needs to be supported.
I do understand that many schools have meal and snack programs already operating, and so the question is: "what is different about this initiative?" From my understanding, one of the key differences is the connection of the meal program to curriculum. In essence, meal time becomes part of the school curriculum, and is not only a time for proper food to be consumed, but for education to occur about healthy eating in a very broad sense.
I urge you to support this important pilot project as I believe that it can have a significant impact on student learning overall. Successful learning is so integral to the fabric of our society. The impact created by those who do not experience success is massive. Initiatives such as this, which address a research-based and critical component of the learning process, should be encouraged and supported.
Please provide your full support for this pilot project.
Battlefords Boys and Girls Club
My name is Nicole Combres and I am the Executive Director of the Battlefords Boys and Girls Club in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. I am writing in support of the Pilot Project for Universal Lunches in Schools and the great work they have set out to do for our community.
As we are aware, rates of obesity and other health related conditions are rising in Canada. It is vital to begin instilling healthy food choices in our children at an early age. What better way to take on this task than to target schools where children could have equal access to nutritious lunches and snacks regardless of their financial statuses. Here, at the Battlefords Boys and Girls Club, we offer healthy meals and snacks to the best of our ability given limited funds as a non-profit organization. With improved nutrition, we see an increase in physical activity and learning abilities, thus the crucial nature of having universal lunches in schools.
If you require additional information or further support, please feel free to contact me at (306) 445-0002.
DR. RYAN MEILI
Dr. Ryan Meili
MLA, Saskatoon - Meewasin
Former Family Physician in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Current leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the opposition party in the Saskatchewan Legislature.