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MBJ: Editorial: 16th section land could be used for good with school farms

Renowned chef and author Alice Waters told the Wall Street Journal in a recent video interview that school children need to eat healthier and we should all pay more for food.

Children should eat healthier — and learn healthier habits, which would prevent disease and lower health care costs nationwide — but the bankrupt federal government paying more for organic food in free lunches shouldn’t be part of the solution.

Waters wants to establish smaller distribution systems partnering with local farms that would get organic food to schools. This would be expensive.

Here’s a better idea: Let schools to grow their own pesticide-free vegetables. Instead of spending a bunch of extra money we don’t have, shift resources around.

In Mississippi, some state-owned 16th section land could be designated as farm land for schools. Kids could be required to take mandatory horticulture classes where they would grow food, which they would then eat in the school cafeteria. A guess is that plenty of environmental groups, 4-H clubs, etc. would be willing to volunteer to teach. Everybody would win.

Businesses that implement wellness programs for employees save significant amounts of money on health insurance costs.

Preventative medicine works

Part of preventative medicine is healthy eating. Mississippi is the fattest state in the Union, and obesity is largely a function of poor life choices: unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. Many people who have watched family members eat cheap, processed foods for several generations are ignorant about nutrition. Some in rural areas have limited access to any food that isn’t available at a local convenience store.

If Mississippi taught its kids to eat well, how much savings on healthcare costs could be reaped in the future?

The MBJ enjoyed its May 2 “Q&A” with former Community Coffee CEO Randy Russ in which he discussed the involvement of Jackson’s Christ United Methodist in “business as mission” work in Africa. The church helped purchase land to create an agricultural high school for street children of AIDS parents. In this model kids receive housing and taught to farm and feed themselves. Extra food is sold for revenue to sustain the operation.

To take a different twist on an old adage, Give a man a healthy meal; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to grow his healthy meal; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

Note: Waters’ video interview can be found by Googling “Wall Street Journal Alice Waters the big interview.”

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