Child hunger: how a pharmaceutical company will end it

What has ‘Plant a seed and Watch it grow’ have to do with a medical column?

In one word, plenty!

One of today’s medical disasters is that many children in this country are hungry and poor. Finally, a major pharmaceutical company has come up with a novel idea to eliminate this shameful social condition. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is the greatest threat to public health.

Canada, unlike many of its G8 counterparts, has no national child nutrition program.

So, one in seven children live in poverty and hunger with increased risk of a variety of health problems.

In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture says nine out of 10 Americans are deficient in potassium, eight out of 10 in Vitamin E, seven out of 10 in calcium, and 50% in Vitamin A, C and magnesium.

Studies show that fruits and vegetables contain fewer nutrients than 50 years ago.

Potatoes, which I die for, have lost 100% of Vitamin A, 57% of Vitamin C and iron, and 28 % of calcium.

You don’t require an MBA degree in agriculture to conclude that mineral deficient soil grows mineral deficient foods. A sick soil means sick plants, sick animals and sick people.

So how is Natural Factors of Vancouver, Canada’s prime natural remedy manufacturer, attempting to solve this dilemma?

It plans to create a healthier generation of children, ones that connect to the land by planting seeds and watching them grow.

A typical example is Natural Factors sponsorship of Vancouver’s Sutherland Secondary School market garden. The garden created on school grounds uses organic practices and intensive planting techniques to maximize productivity of the space. Studies show that children thrive when outside interacting with nature, watching their seeds grow.

Today, with so many concerned about the warming of our planet, such gardens will increase green space, reduce heat, and decrease carbon emissions.

And provide opportunity for children to eat more local vegetables and fruit along with physical activity.

My congratulations go Roland Gahler, president of Natural Factors, for giving this tragedy the attention it deserves. I sadly admit I’m a guilty party.

For 40 years I’ve reported that obese children usually become obese adults. This leads to the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and its disastrous complications, eventually triggering the epidemic of coronary attack.

So it’s good to be reminded that the other extreme, inadequate nutrition is also a medical time-bomb.

Malnourished children, short of vitamins and minerals may be small in stature, suffer from fatigue, bleeding gums, anemia, aching bones and joints, night blindness, skin troubles and are more susceptible to infection.

Natural Factors wants to establish community gardens for children across the country, for them to plant seeds and watch them grow.

The company will pay for seeds and all administrative costs related to the garden. Ideally, gardens should be established on school properties, but not necessarily.

In my teens I planted potato and tomato seeds in the back lawn of our home and carefully provided them with water. I remember the excitement of seeing the tomatoes grow and digging up potatoes. It produced a proud feeling of being part of their growth along with the pleasure of eating my favourite foods.

I was too busy to return to growing vegetables when I finally opened a surgical practice in Toronto, but now my mind wanders back to a small elementary school in Chippawa, Ontario, attended by all my children.

Maybe you’ve guessed what I’m thinking.

I’d like to see if a garden can be established at the school. If readers share my view that poor nutrition of our children should be past history, and want to become involved, see the web site

This project will have another effect.

I recall the story of an inner city child being asked, “Where does milk come from?” He replied, “The corner store.” What a shame he had never seen a cow or planted a seed and watched it grow.

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