Gov­ern­ment can do more: Cullen

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - FROM A5

“You’re the out­cast if you don’t have the in-stuff. You’ve got to be dressed just so be­cause (you’re) pushed aside and (you’re) noth­ing then.”

Her son was once called “just too poor” by another stu­dent, “and that re­ally both­ered him,” she says.

For poor chil­dren school lunch is also a ma­jor headache be­cause of the di­etary re­stric­tions im­posed by the schools and lack of money. Both par­ents pro­vide their chil­dren with a packed lunch be­cause they can’t af­ford the $5 they say is re­quired daily for the school­bought meal. But if the some­times-cheaper in­gre­di­ents for sand­wiches are not per­mit­ted be­cause of al­ler­gic re­ac­tions among other stu­dents and staff, they are stuck. Tracy, who lacks Kim’s ex­tended-fam­ily sup­ports, ad­mits she has oc­ca­sion­ally kept her chil­dren at home be­cause she couldn’t af­ford to make a sand­wich ac­cept­able to the school.

Both women have had trou­ble get­ting their chil­dren to at­tend the break­fast, which they say the school pro­vides free-of-charge each day to all stu­dents, re­gard­less of their par­ents’ in­come, be­cause they fear they will be stig­ma­tized if they show up there. Ac­cord­ing to Tracy, “they’re afraid some­one is go­ing to judge them for go­ing down.”

Tracy says her chil­dren would some­times go with­out food if not for the lo­cal food bank. Kim, who doesn’t want to over­bur­den her sup­port­ive fam­ily, con­cedes, “I got to use the food bank. If not, I might not make it till the next week or the next two weeks, so I got to go.” They have both gone with­out per­sonal items to give to the kids.

Anne Collins Brown, client ser­vices of­fi­cer with the Sin­gle Par­ent As­so­ci­a­tion of N.L. (SPAN) says, “I know of sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies where the mother hasn’t eaten in two or three days.”

Pur­chas­ing back­packs and school sup­plies are ad­di­tional hur­dles. If these young women hadn’t re­ceived theirs from the 73 dis­trib­uted free-of-charge in the area by SPAN this year, they would have to make fur­ther cuts to al­ready sparse bud­gets. Each SPAN back­pack, filled with school sup­plies, cost be­tween $75 and $100. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions in the re­gion also dis­trib­ute them at no cost.

School-field trips are another source of anx­i­ety for these young moth­ers, es­pe­cially Tracy. They want their chil­dren to ben­e­fit from the ed­u­ca­tional field trips, but they don’t have the money to buy meals at the fast-food out­lets such as Mary Brown’s when the class stops there for lunch. Tracy can pro­vide a packed lunch but her sons are too em­bar­rassed to eat it. “The point is, they’re sit­ting down with their snack packs and he’s with his lunch tin,” she says.

These young women want gov­ern­ment to give them more money to ed­u­cate their chil­dren and they should get it. It is a scan­dal that Canada, a First­World coun­try, sup­ports this self-per­pet­u­at­ing cy­cle of poverty. We sup­port it by not giv­ing our low-in­come par­ents enough money to raise their chil­dren with the dig­nity that in­stils hope. It will cost more ini­tially, but we will save in the long run.

We will save by re­duc­ing es­ca­lat­ing health-care costs as­so­ci­ated with poor nutri­tion and by re­duc­ing in­car­cer­a­tion and so­cial hous­ing costs, for our poor and un­e­d­u­cated are more likely to end up in jail or on the streets. To those who scoff and say, “We can’t af­ford it” or “They’ll only blow the ex­tra money on beer or lotto tick­ets”, well, the peo­ple who do that can be is­sued vouch­ers to take to a store in ex­change for nu­tri­tious food and good cloth­ing.

We have two elec­tions com­ing up. Poverty re­duc­tion must be con­sid­ered a se­ri­ous is­sue by all politi­cians at both lev­els of gov­ern­ment, and not just some­thing to which lip ser­vice is given and then for­got­ten once the votes are counted. Rec­om­men­da­tions must be made and more im­por­tantly im­ple­mented.

SPAN doesn’t de­liver back­packs and if other or­ga­ni­za­tions can’t, then Ken Rus­sell’s Bay Roberts­based Bell Aliant Pi­o­neer Vol­un­teers Tri­Con club will. It is com­posed of cur­rent and re­tired Bell tele­phone em­ploy­ees. In late Au­gust, it had 86 filled back­packs for ele­men­tary-school stu­dents from Heart’s Con­tent to Col­liers and the Whit­bourne area.

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