Kids having meals together is a damn good idea

Kids having breakfast together is a good idea

By Hafidz Baharom

Some might have noticed that the Malaysians Minister for Education Maszlee Malik decided to have schools provide a free breakfast for kids in all schools here beginning January 2020.

To implement this, Maszlee said that the cash would be funded by the sugar beverage tax collected by the Ministry of Finance since July.

And yet, some are questioning why should kids of all ages, races, religions, and incomes should sit down and have breakfast together.

According to one comment piece on Malaysiakini, it would be a waste of funds to provide breakfast for those who have already eaten at home.

Well, then they have time to sit down and talk with their friends who haven’t had breakfast, then.

Yes, there will be those who have had breakfast at home, and there will be those who were too much in a rush to the point that they’ve habitually skipped breakfast for God knows how long.

But let me ask a more important question – if we are so blasé about eating habits in schools, why stop there?

Why do parents insist on having dinner together, when kids can just have their meals at their own time and skip eating with their parents because they have eaten?

Why do people in college and universities, and even co-workers, go about asking people if they wish to eat together rather than eat by themselves at their own time?

Heck, why eat with anyone else at all when you can just stay home and order GrabFood or FoodPanda to dine alone?

Because it’s unhealthy, that’s why.

Eating is a social habit – and eating together makes people happier. It is the same for kids as it is for adults.

According to CEO of the Happiness Research Institute Mr Meik Wiking in Copenhagen, those who eat alone tend to eat 25 percent more, and those who make eating a ritual among friends such as France, tend to have lower rates of obesity.

A quote from his book “The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search For The World’s Happiest People” sums it up nicely:

“Our languages are reminders that sharing food nurtures more than our physical body. It feeds our friendships, bolsters our bonds and nourishes our sense of community – and those factors are vital to our happiness,”

And this is where I believe those looking at the cost of the breakfast, whether their kids have had breakfast already, are looking at the wrong thing.

Allowing kids the time to sit down at the beginning of the day to socialise and actually have a chat with friends, or to even enjoy one another’s company whilst eating the first meal of the day is to encourage social interaction and camaraderie among them.

It is the reason why universities insists on first year students live and dine together in their college mess halls, as those of us who went to UiTM experienced.

It is the reason that even if you have watched or read Harry Potter, you would have noticed their time at school also includes time spent talking at their main hall. In fact, those who have seen the movie Tolkien will also notice bonds forming over afternoon tea.

But most importantly, it levels out the income gap in schools.

As Weiking points out in his book – “it can ignite the understanding that the good life builds on connection and purpose”.

“That our wealth is not measured by the size of our bank accounts but by the strengths of our bonds, the health of our loved ones and the level of our gratitude. That happiness does not come from owning a bigger fear but from knowing that we are part of something bigger – part of a community – that we are all in this together.”

And that’s why kids should be able to have breakfast together in schools, and why we go out for lunch and dinner with co-workers and willing to pick up the tab for those who can’t afford it without minding too much, and why many of us go for two hour lunches on Friday with some (not all) who skip their Friday prayers.

It is a bonding ritual that creates friendships, bonds and memories, even among journalists who dine at a McDonald’s at Ampang Park after covering a protest and get into an argument over borrowing a lighter to talk to a girl.

Let all the kids have their breakfast together and form their bonds of fellowship, even if they don’t have to quest to a volcano to destroy a golden ring.

Because that is the future of Malaysia, and if there is anything Malaysia needs right now, it is the need to build bonds among its own people regardless of their race, religion, income groups and class.

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