Children speak out on POVERTY - Toronto REPORT released FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 25 May 1999 12:56:19 -0700 (PDT)


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http://www.thestar.com/thestar/editorial/toronto/990518NEW03_CI-POOR18.html
FWD  Toronto Star - May 18, 1999

     CHILDREN SPEAK OUT ON POVERTY

     Kids' advocate releases first annual report

     By Andy Georgiades - Toronto Star Staff Reporter

 Thirteen year-old Sophia Perlman wants governments to know that children
are no longer afraid to speak out and condemn child poverty.

 ``Face what's going on,'' Perlman demanded. ``You can't cover (child
poverty) up anymore because people are aware of it, and the kids aren't
afraid to speak up anymore. We're going to start saying, `No, this is
wrong.' ''

 The Ryerson Public School student and others in her Grade 8 class
yesterday joined Councillor Olivia Chow (Downtown), the city's children's
advocate, as she released her first annual report on the state of Toronto's
children.

 The 28-page progress report praises city council for adopting a children's
strategy and appointing an advocate and children's action committee, but
notes that most of the recommendations remain either in progress,
incomplete or outstanding.

 Three recommendations about improving child care and recreation in schools
have seen setbacks under the province's new school funding formula, the
report says.

 However, great improvement has occurred in the city's commitment to
feeding hungry children due to last year's council decision to spend an
additional $1.2 million on school nutrition programs.

 In addition, city council should increase its budget for children's
services and expand the city's summer camps.

 Child nutrition, homelessness and post-pregnancy programs also require
more financial support from the city, the report concludes.

Perlman said children can't afford to have special services taken away. ``I
think it's really important that there are programs for me and for my
brothers and for all the other kids to go to after school and during the
summer,'' she said.

 Referring to school breakfast programs, fellow student Tony Tran, 13, said
children ``need something nutritious in their bodies'' when they come to
school in order to concentrate and learn effectively.

 After the amalgamated city council appointed her children's advocate in
1998, Chow said she asked kids what they would do if they were in charge of
the city. Of the 900 responses she received, Chow was particularly moved by
a 5-year-old girl who said she ``would ask God for more money to buy
groceries.''

 ``Toronto is one of the richest cities in the world,'' said Chow. ``Why do
we have children asking, begging, praying to God for food? It's obscene. It
doesn't make sense.''

 Although programs already in place provide food for more than 34,000
schoolchildren, Chow's report estimates another 40,000 children still need
this service.

 She said the federal government's pledge a decade ago to end child poverty
by the year 2000 is in grave danger. Since 1989, the number of children
living in poverty has increased 66 per cent, while the number of children
in working poor families has risen 45 per cent.

 According to the report, 50,000 Toronto children live in families that
rely on food banks, and one-third of those go hungry once a week.

 In the last year, the city has injected an additional $12.5 million into
child services (including dental care, recreation, and breakfast programs).

 But Chow argues this doesn't let senior levels of government off the hook
for the consequences of their cuts to social services and programs.

END FORWARD

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