Give free lunches to poor children, group urges
The government should provide free lunches for poor children, a welfare group has urged.
On the eve of International Children's Day, the Society for Community Organisation yesterday released the findings of a survey on the impact of the financial meltdown on children from poor, working-class families.
Community organiser Wong Chi-yuen said the median income of such families had fallen by about 22 per cent, from HK$8,000 to HK$6,250. But the 43 per cent of them not living in public housing still had to pay median rent of HK$2,000.
Another community organiser, Sze Lai-shan, estimated that 340,000 of the city's 1.1 million children were living in poverty, 20,000 more than last year.
The society found that 40 per cent of the children surveyed were worried that their families would not be able to pay school fees.
Half of the children surveyed had skipped lunch to save money and more than 40 per cent said they could not focus during lessons, because they were hungry.
Thirty per cent of the children said they had to live on expired food, and more than 70 per cent said they could not afford to participate in outings or extra-curricular activities.
More than half of the children had engaged in scavenging activities, such as collecting aluminium cans and waste cardboard.
Yau Lan-ying said she had to cut her daughter's milk formula from three times to twice a day. Cheung Ka-hing, nine, said he was unhappy because he often only ate one meal a day.
Kwok Wing-kei, aged 12, hoped the government could provide lunches and boarding in schools to help poor children.
Ms Sze said that various relief measures introduced by the government were either insufficient or inapplicable to such families.
She urged the government to subsidise meals and provide free pre-school education and extra subsidies for poor children, whether or not they were eligible for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.
'The most pressing and the most practical assistance that the government can give would be to provide lunches for children at schools,' she said.
The survey was conducted between January and May, and covered 140 children from 80 families.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party petitioned Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday to urge the government to create more mid-rank, clerical and low-skilled jobs to help the middle class and working poor.
Party spokeswoman Chan Shu-ying said the government had been unwilling to create more jobs by increasing spending, and the HK$12.8 billion relief package introduced last week could not improve the worsening unemployment problem.
The Society for Community Organisation has studied the impact of the financial meltdown on children from poor, working-class families
The amount the median income of such families has fallen
The 43 per cent of those families not living in public housing still had to pay median rent, in Hong Kong dollars, of