I’m usually pretty desensitised to news stories, especially when listening to the Today Programme on a morning when I can’t find my house keys, Oyster card or phone. This morning was an exception.
I’m usually pretty desensitised to news stories, especially when listening to the Today Programme on a morning when I can’t find my house keys, Oyster card or phone. This morning was an exception, however.
One million children in the UK live in homes where there isn’t enough to eat, according to a survey by Netmums and the Kids Company, published today. Children in these homes eat an average of just 11 meals a week, instead of 21, and may eat even less during the school holidays.
If like me you find it difficult to grasp the extent of these overwhelming yet abstract statistics, consider this story instead. When Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums, went to a Kids Company centre, she heard of a 5 year old girl who arrives alone every morning with a plastic bowl and waits for an hour for the centre to be opened.
While some of these children having loving parents who simply struggle to make ends meet, others have parents whose drug or alcohol addiction means they are not feeding their family. For those who resist the idea of any nanny state interventions, examples such as these pose an ethical dilemma that is only made more difficult by the sheer size of the problem.
Kids Company also reports a 200 per cent rise in the number of children using their services – but it’s not clear whether this means that there has been a rise in the number of children in need or if it’s because more children are finding out about the service.
Offering under-nourished children free meals only treats the symptoms and goes no way to finding a cure for the deeper and more complex problems that cause children to go hungry in one of the richest countries in the world. But that doesn’t mean the service is not invaluable.