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Host of offers to help hungry students

The plight of schoolchildren left without proper meals has prompted a helping charity to remind the community of means of assisting families directly.

The Coalition for the Protection of Children reported fielding a host of offers for help in the wake of yesterday's report that rising numbers of students were having to skip lunches as well as breakfast.

“One way to help is to work with friends or co-workers to organise a collection of non-perishable luncheon foods and bring them to our food storehouse,” said Sheelagh Cooper, the chairwoman of the group.

The best lunches are those prepared and brought from home, she said, rather than “having students identified as kids that don't have lunch”.

The agency, on Mount Hill, Pembroke, offers basic food supplies to families struggling to provide for themselves, any time from Monday through Friday.

Ms Cooper told The Royal Gazette that she had passed on the word to school counsellors who had recently spoken of more students showing up short of a lunch. While she commended the community for pitching in to help, Ms Cooper said she regretted that “we are essentially making a bad system look good, by continuing to prop up this situation”.

“But we will continue to do what we do with the coexisting commitment to press for fundamental and systemic change.”

Churches and charities have always helped families short of a proper meal: the coalition's school breakfast programme has been in running since 2007.

The initiative is open to all children wishing for a meal to start their school day.

Helping low-income mothers to send off their youngsters with lunch is best done by donating simple staple items, Ms Cooper said, listing off goods such as canned tuna, canned chicken, mayonnaise, crackers, cheese, canned soup, peanut butter and tortilla wraps.

However, she said the shortfall of food was “beyond the capacity of any charitable organisation to solve”.

“While we will not see any child go hungry, we realise that this approach is just putting a Band-Aid on what has become a serious systemic problem.”

She said the community needed to examine “whether we believe that essential nutrition for children is a basic human right, or a privilege” — and thus deserving of changes to government policy. “If we believe that every child in our community deserves to be feed properly, and I think most of us would agree on that, then it becomes a question of how we achieve that goal.

“That is where people tend to disagree. But this is something that we can no longer afford to just talk about.”

She suggested examining measures such as providing “a guaranteed sustainable income, a government-subsidised food programme in schools, increased taxation on the high income earners, and reduced fixed deductions on low income earners, to name a few”.

“There are a myriad possibilities, but very different views on which of these makes the most sense.”

Breakfast programme: Sheelagh Cooper, chairwoman of the Coalition for the Protection of Children (File photograph)

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Published June 02, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 02, 2016 at 7:38 am)

Host of offers to help hungry students

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