300,000 Meals for Children in Dundee

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“Dundee does indeed face significant economic and social challenges but our city and our people stand together ready to respond.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 24/08/2020 [Online] Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/ewan-gurr-dundee-bairns-providing-300000-meals-in-four-years-is-staggering-reminder-of-challenges-facing-our-city/  [Accessed: 2020, Aug 25]

The announcement that local charity Dundee Bairns provided its 300,000th meal in only four years is a staggering reminder of the challenges facing our city. I never know whether to celebrate or commiserate such a figure because, while I am grateful there is a voluntary cushion to ease the effect of poverty in our city, like Dundee Bairns founder David Dorward says, “We simply wish that Dundee children did not need our meals.”

On the positive, the figure also highlights the encouraging air of entrepreneurialism and fighting spirit that resides in Dundee when a proverbial tsunami like a pandemic hits our city. In the press release, the words of furloughed worker Ed Lawson ring true: “We are a city that takes care of our own.” Whilst many retreated from the coalface when our country went in lockdown, people like Ed took up the opportunity to increase their workload and make a difference with the additional gift of free time.

It was not only volunteers who took action during lockdown but bairns themselves. In addition to several high-profile benefactors who support Dundee Bairns, project coordinator Genna Millar applauded the efforts of three eight-year-old girls, who each held fundraisers during lockdown. Catherine Letford did the Kiltwalk, Holly McIntosh cycled 80 miles and Lauren Chesters designed and sold t-shirts. Genna said: “There is something heart-warming about children raising money for children.”

What struck me most about the announcement by Dundee Bairns this week is the vast majority of provision took place during the pandemic. In January, Dundee City Council leader John Alexander told me he had sat in a “heart-wrenching” budget meeting where consideration was given to cuts that could reach up to and beyond £27 million. The question this raises is; what then might the future hold for a city which was undergoing such significant cuts only a few months ago?

I think Dundee is in a strong position to ride the tide of expected hardship. Prior to the pandemic, the value of tourism to our local economy was over £10 million per month and created 370 new real living-wage jobs in Dundee. Once signed, the new Tay Cities Deal will bring £700 million of investment and 6,000 new jobs in Tayside over the next 15 years. And, last week, Hillcrest Homes announced the development of 2,000 more affordable homes in Dundee after securing £50 million investment.

Nationally, the Scottish Government also published its progress on child poverty last Thursday. Whilst some charities called for further action, many welcomed news that the Scottish Child Payment, which will provide £10 per week per child, was still on course to launch this year. At full roll out, Government analysis anticipates 410,000 children will benefit and it will lift around 30,000 out of relative poverty in Scotland, reducing the child poverty rate by three percentage points.

Dundee does indeed face significant challenges but our city and our people stand ready to respond.

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