As the school year fast approaches, NDP Leader Mike Redmond is calling on government to ensure that Island kids get more physical activity and better cafeteria options to combat the "epidemic of obesity" on P.E.I.

"We are missing a valuable opportunity to influence the dietary needs of our children and physical activity of our children," Redmond said.

He added that it's not all the responsibility of the Public Schools Branch or education system, but that "they must be the leaders in that field."

'Check all the boxes'

"If we want our children to learn, and learn well, then we need to make sure we check all the boxes," Redmond said. 

He said those boxes include, being physically active and eating well — both of which attribute to "being successful in the classroom."

School lunch

'Being physically active and eating well are known attributes to being successful in the classroom,' says NDP Leader Mike Redmond. (Liz Kloepper)

He said government should consider the NDP's long proposed universal breakfast and lunch program and encourage local producers to get involved in feeding the schools.

"Use local farmers, fisherman, dairy producers — you would create an economy there and create jobs. For every dollar you spend on a child in health and wellness you're going to get that return of three-to-four dollars," he said.

Criticizing government

Education is an investment, Redmond said. 

"It's not a line item in a budget — government has for too long said that," he added.

"This is a government that can find $65 million for a highway or a roundabout in North River but can't invest in our children — that argument doesn't hold any water."

By the time of publication, the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture had not responded to CBC's request for comment.