Rising number of students going hungry
In a “disturbing” trend, rising numbers of young students from needy homes are coming to the classroom with their lunchboxes empty.
Children at ten schools already get help with breafast each morning, courtesy of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, and the agency has reported an increase in their numbers.
“What is more disturbing is the students that have been coming to school without lunch,” said coalition chairwoman Sheelagh Cooper.
The coalition has heard from three schools whose counsellors have noticed more hungry children, she said.
“We've been asked if we could extend the programme to a limited extent to lunch. Clearly that's not within our scope. But it's very concerning for us.”
At one school, 13 youngsters arrived without lunches in one day, but Ms Cooper said more were likely to be quietly going without.
In part, children are reluctant to let anyone know for fear of their mothers being reported to the Department of Child and Family Services.
Cynics attribute the problem to poor budgeting, she said, but money allotted for food is often taken away by unexpected expenses.
“Most of the women we see don't have any health insurance,” Ms Cooper told The Royal Gazette.
“If their child falls sick, they're going to spend that money no matter what — even if they're on a tight budget.”
With many relying partially or wholly on financial assistance, the last week of the month is the worst for students going hungry.
“At least we can provide breakfast, but having no lunch means you might not have dinner,” Ms Cooper said.
“It creates a state of food anxiety. Ironically, that is often associated with obesity. You might overeat when you get food, or rely on a bag of chips or a candy bar, which costs the least.
“It speaks to a deeper problem in Bermuda, which is the lack of a living wage to support struggling families.”