This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 16/09/2019 [Online], Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/ewan-gurr-the-children-we-nourish-are-those-who-will-flourish/ [Accessed: 2019, Sep 17]
“It is often just one thing that can tip a family out of the boat and place them at the mercy of the storm.”
Having reached the middle of September, the true scale of the numbers using many charities over the summer months is only beginning to become clear. Many charities using comprehensive data collection do not see the full scale of the need in black and white until after the service has been delivered and the summer months of June, July and August paint a bleak picture. Tragically, at the sharpest end, it is children who are often at the mercy of restricted incomes. American abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said: “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”
However, summer is a tricky balancing act for both families and charities. It is not easy for families on a low income when children who are fed at breakfast clubs, via free school lunches and after school groups are home for the whole six weeks of summer. It is not just the cost of feeding your children for those six weeks but it is the cost of activities, of transporting them places by bus or car, of drinks to keep them hydrated and snacks to keep them sustained. For many families on finely balanced budgets, these are the hidden costs that can later lead to hidden hunger.
It is also not easy for foodbanks who are experiencing an increase in demand against a decrease in donations. I spoke to colleagues at Dundee Foodbank this week, which has encountered unprecedented demand over the summer of 2019. Between the summer months of 2018 and 2019, they have seen a 13% increase in demand and a 3% decrease in donations. Now, that may seem like a small margin but when it is magnified year after year and scaled up across the rest of the country, it is clear the trajectory our voluntary sector nationally could be on.
Another local charity, Dundee Bairns, which provides food for children during school holidays, delivered 27,360 meals during the summer. Imagine Dens Park and Tannadice Park both filled to capacity (I said “imagine”) and you are beginning to see the numbers our local charities are reaching. Dundee Bairns saw a 5% increase in demand over the last year but what is alarming is that project coordinator Amanda Symington told me last week that a number of holiday clubs have closed due to lack of funding or been forced to cut back due to a lack of resources.
It is the children we nourish that become the children who flourish but the biggest challenges face the hard-working parents paid so little that they must balance their limited resources as best they can to anchor their families against the waves of poverty but it is often just one thing that can tip a family out of the boat and place them at the mercy of the storm.