Nourish Cowichan throws out a profoundly disturbing statistic: more than 30 per cent of Cowichan area children live below the poverty line.
This leads to the group’s purpose: to provide nutritious meals to children who would otherwise go to school hungry.
While it is a highly admirable endeavour, it is also a sad symptom of bitter problems in the Cowichan Valley. While there are many here who are prosperous and happy, there are far too many who struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table and shelter over their heads from month to month. Sometimes they fail, in spite of the Valley’s incredible food banks.
The argument that people are responsible for their own economic lot in life and shouldn’t be looking for handouts is questionable for adults, but totally falls apart when we start talking about children. These children did not ask to be born into poverty. They do not control what their parents spend money on. They cannot go out and get jobs to supplement their own food allotment. They are the totally innocent victims of a widening disparity between the wealthy and the poor.
We hope that everyone can at least agree that impoverished children in our rich society is a totally unacceptable reality. Food is one of the basics of life. How can a child be expected to learn if all they can think about is how empty their stomach is? Without an education, the chance of them escaping from the poverty of their youth diminishes vastly. As society that turns its back on such children is one of such callous indifference that we don’t want to live in it.
For now, we are incredibly thankful to programs like Nourish Cowichan and Starfish Pack, and the grants that support their efforts. But we also have to address the root causes of why they are needed in the first place. These groups would like nothing more than to find themselves unnecessary. What we have now isn’t adequate. It’s past time to try something new.