A Killyleagh vice-principal has spoken out about the impact of food poverty in local classrooms…
‘We can’t fight food poverty alone’ says Killyleagh teacher.
Carney Cumper, Past President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union and Vice Principal at Killyleagh Integrated Primary, was speaking this week as a leading charity claimed food poverty was a breach of human rights and said: “Teachers can’t fight pupil poverty on their own.”
Her comments also follow recent recommendations that schoolchildren in Northern Ireland receive a free portion of fruit or vegetables every day.
She said: “Those recommendations came from the Children’s Future Food Inquiry and two young people from this area sat on that inquiry committee along with stakeholders from across the children and young people’s sectors, so these findings hit right at the heart of our community.
“They also follow on the heels of figures from the End Child Poverty campaign which revealed that almost a quarter of children in this constituency area are living in poverty.
“None of this is any surprise to teachers as sadly we see daily the evidence in front of us when we hear children are coming to school hungry, with holes in their shoes, unable to afford to go on school trips, all the things everyone else takes for granted.
“As a teacher it’s hard to watch and we have always tried to help these families whenever we can but with so many other financial issues pressing on schools, it’s becoming increasingly difficult and so it is these children who are suffering most.
“Families who are managing might find it hard to believe that pupils in their children’s class are coming to school hungry in this day and age but it is a fact.
“It is often much more complicated than that family simply not having enough money to feed the children. There may be other issues at work too – mental health issues, a parent with a disability, alcohol or domestic abuse.
“The result is that it’s the children who often bear the brunt. They’re not receiving the nourishment they need to thrive and learn and so the vicious circle threatens to repeat itself.
“Teachers can only do so much. We can’t fight food poverty alone and we would ask for the funders to ensure this most vulnerable section of our school communities receives the support they deserve.”
* This week Human Rights Watch published its report Nothing Left in the Cupboards:Austerity, Welfare Cuts, and the Right to Food in the UK. https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/05/20/nothing-left-cupboards/austerity-welfare-cuts-and-right-food-uk