I’m sure most Canadians would agree that our political leaders should make the welfare of our children a top priority. And I believe the single most important step we can take to ensure that our children grow up healthy and happy is to kick off a national campaign to promote organic food in our schools.
For the past several years, I’ve switched to an organic diet. I also grow my own organic produce. I got into the food business more than a decade ago, and the more I became immersed in it, the more I can see how we are damaging our environment, while not producing the most natural of foods.
Many of the large industrial farms throughout Canada and the United States apply massive amounts of chemicals to their crops and orchards to prevent them from being destroyed by insects and disease.
So how do we go about minimizing our children’s exposure to these chemicals and otherwise help to keep them healthy? I believe the best way that we as a country can do this is through several specific measures that promote healthy eating and natural foods.
To begin, governments and school boards should establish food guidelines that promote organic foods in school cafeterias.
I further propose that we create educational programs that teach children how to grow their own food — a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives. Here’s how it would work: schools would dedicate a half-day per week to teaching children from grades 1-6 about the importance of eating healthy foods, while students in grades 7-12 would spend one entire day per week in studies and activities related to nutrition.
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The older students would take part in hands-on learning related to planting, nurturing and harvesting a wide variety of farm-grown produce and would do this inside greenhouses during the winter and outdoors on farms and in gardens when the weather is warmer.
Through programs such as this, students would learn about the nutritional benefits of foods and the critical role that food plays in human health, as well as gain an appreciation for growing natural foods. Students would also acquire a much deeper respect for nature — something we need more than ever at a time when many of our children are growing up in densely populated urban centres and are constantly glued to their phones. A greater connection to the natural world, which gives us the food we need to live, would be reinvigorating and therapeutic.
Most importantly, our children will have a greater chance of being healthy. If you are healthy, you think more clearly, you have more energy for physical activities and you are able to get more out of life, no matter what you choose to do in it. It’s much easier to be happy when you’re healthy.
This summer, I’ll open a prototype educational centre north of Toronto that will include a greenhouse, outdoor vegetable gardens, orchards and a farmer’s market. It will be a place where children, teachers and parents can come to learn about nutrition, as well as experience the joy of growing and harvesting their own food.
It will be part of a national, non-profit organization I’ve established called the GUHAH Way, whose mission is to spread the word about the benefits of organic foods and to help change the way we think about food. The word GUHAH pretty much sums up what we are all about — the letters in the name stand for “growing up healthy and happy.”
That’s the number 1 desire of every parent. And it’s what we as a society should make as our number 1 priority.
Frank Stronach is the founder of Magna International Inc., one of Canada’s largest global companies, and an inductee in the Automotive Hall of Fame. He can reached at [email protected]