Through the New Brunswick Student Wellness Survey (SWS), the New Brunswick Health Council measures a wide range of indicators that enable us to learn about children’s needs. According to the 2018-2019 data, 5% of New Brunswick students in grades 6 to 12 experience food poverty. That is an estimated 3,224 students who report “Always” or “Often” going to school or to bed hungry because there is not enough food at home. This group of children counts among our most vulnerable, facing several risk factors.
While the percentage of students reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression is already high sitting at 46%, this value climbs to a shocking 73% among those students experiencing food poverty, speaking of an increased need for support in one form or another (see following visual). In fact, students experiencing food poverty have double the odds (1 in 5) of experiencing an unmet need for mental and emotional health support1 compared to the New Brunswick students overall (1 in 10).
When children don’t have all that they need, they can’t develop to the fullest extent possible; they survive, but they can’t thrive. This is reflected in their measures of life satisfaction. While 81% of students reported being highly satisfied with their life, only 56% of students experiencing food poverty felt the same. Student experiencing food poverty make up one sub-group of the population that is at risk, but there are other. The following visual shows the life satisfaction of New Brunswick at-risk students in comparison to the general student population.
Success stories in NB
While there is certainly room to improve how New Brunswick responds to the needs of children, there certainly are also many organizations and individuals working hard to turn the tables. The SWS is there to support these organizations and individuals by providing data to help them identify needs and measure progress.
The Natoaganeg School in Eel Ground First Nation leveraged the results of the SWS to initiate a project that involved its students in community gardening and saw a 42% increase in students eating breakfast daily, and increased by 35% the rate of students feeling their psychological needs were being met by their school.
Our data demonstrates inequities among different sociodemographic groups. By using standardized data to identify needs, New Brunswick can be in a better position to address the inequities and ensure that every child can survive and thrive.
1. Unmet need for mental or emotional health support: felt the need to consult for a mental or emotional problem but did not get to.