The economic and social impact of COVID has hit hard in many homes in Spain and in that of María and her son, he was at ease: he spent months in ERTE and all the jobs he did on his own, such as cleaning houses or attending to dependent people also disappeared. The bills did not come out and she could barely pay the rent for the apartment where she lives alone with her 11-year-old son. Today, although he carries debts from that time, little by little he begins to recover by taking up the specific jobs he left during confinement. But avoiding poverty and precariousness also means living with the perennial risk of returning to the starting box, of starting from scratch over and over again.
With the arrival of summer and the end of the school year, schools and dining rooms are closed, which means another new limitation to be faced that, in addition, causes havoc on minors. “In summer I have no one to leave my son at home or someone to take care of him, because I am alone in this country. There is only my child and I, ”laments María. And it is that, if he does not work, he cannot get an income to support and feed his son. To get out of this crossroads, this family has the support of the Summer Program of the NGO Educo, which not only allows children in vulnerable situations to have access to leisure activities and free time, but also guarantees at least one complete and nutritious meal a day for this group.
This initiative, led by Educo, is carried out in collaboration with 65 entities that organize different types of camps throughout the Spanish geography, providing some 115,000 meals to more than 2,000 children from June to September.
With the end of the school year, nutritional problems begin for the most vulnerable children
According to government data, more than 700,000 boys and girls are left without financial support for their food or a public dining grant in summer. “During the summer months, with schools closed, the most vulnerable children do not have access to leisure activities and free time and end up staying at home. But the most serious thing is that the scholarships and aid for the school canteen they receive are also ending. It is true that many families can afford this expense, but what about those that cannot? In many cases, the food and nutrition problems of many children begin until the new school year begins ”, explains Pilar Orenes, general director of Educo.
In addition to guaranteeing food for the little ones during the summer period, it is important to attend to other fundamental aspects for the growth and development of any child or young person. “They also have the right to have a vacation and enjoy free time. It is something basic if we want to ensure their emotional well-being ”, points out Orenes.
For this reason, the Educo Summer Program also seeks to promote the relationship of children with their environment and their friends; and create safe spaces where you can enjoy moments of leisure. Along these lines, the activities include workshops for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, where one can learn to dialogue and listen attentively or make responsible use of social networks and the Internet. That is, through play and care, ensure that no one is left behind.
And this program is essential if we look at the latest official data which shows that in Spain one in three children under 18 years of age is at risk of poverty or exclusion and that more than 370,000 children and adolescents do not eat meat , fish or chicken every other day.
Ensuring children’s nutrition every day of the year
Guaranteeing at least one full meal a day to minors in vulnerable situations is an objective that the Administration and social organizations set for themselves during the twelve months of the year. A challenge that has also been addressed during the hardest period of confinement and pandemic, when educational centers were closed.
During that time, Gabriela’s family received help through a monthly income so that she could shop for food and secure food for her two children, aged nine and twelve.
“I feel very happy and grateful to be able to have the children eating in the dining room, like this, while I can look for work. They are very happy, and it is also time to have a healthy meal ”, acknowledges this mother after returning to class.
Sharing that moment of the day, with a plate of food and in the company of friends, is an opportunity to develop and enjoy a safe and inclusive environment, but also a right. And this is how some put it: “In the dining room I feel happy, cheerful, content, comfortable.” With that phrase adorned by colored hearts that surround each of the words, one of the more than 1,000 minors awarded a scholarship by Educo to eat at their educational center during the 2020-2021 academic year defined his experience.