Ghent tackles problem of hungry school children

3rd October 2013, Comments 0 comments

An increasing number of schools have to prepare their pupils a lunch because the children don't have a packed lunch with them.

Some of them didn't even have a decent breakfast, or had no breakfast at all. The City of Ghent and the Flemish Education Council are sounding the alarm, Het Nieuwsblad reports.

Ghent tackles problem of hungry school children

More and more schools in Ghent are seeing their pupils arrive at school on an empty stomach. "They don't have any sandwiches for lunch either", says the Ghent Alderwoman for Education Elke Decruyenaere of the Flemish greens (small photo).

Confronted with the problem of hungry pupils, the schools are stepping up efforts to counter the problem themselves, by offering free meals for lunch. "However, this is not their core business and I'm afraid they don't have the cash to do it", says Ms Decruynaere.

Decruynaere expects the city council to extend the budget to help out schools to cope with the problem. An amount of 50,000 euros could be earmarked, coming from 35,000. A close cooperation will be worked out with the local social services of the OCMW. "However, eventually, it's up to the Flemish government to step in. Schools and cities can't cope by themselves."

"Urge schools to offer free meals"

The Flemish Education Council (Vlor) also has major concerns. "We are receiving more and more signals that children arrive at school on an empty stomach, partly as a result of increasing child poverty", Vlor member Gerda Bruneel told Het Nieuwsblad.

"As a result, some members of the teaching staff arrive at school with a loaf of bread and a jar of chocolate paste, in order to prepare sandwiches at school to hand out to the children. Teachers also realise that hungry children have more problems concentrating."

The Vlor is expected to issue an advice to schools saying that these should be obliged to offer free meals, as is already the case in Scandinavian countries.

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