Rising Poverty

Andalusia to guarantee three meals a day for poor schoolchildren

Regional administration includes help for seniors in 16-million-euro "food solidarity" budget for 2013

The Socialist-led government of Andalusia is to offer students at public schools three meals a day to alleviate undernourishment in one of Spain's poorest regions. Six of every 100 children in Andalusia live in poverty and schools provide the only square meal for many youngsters whose families are out of work.

"Many parents tell us that school lunches have become essential," said Miguel Castejón, head teacher at the San José Obrero school, whose pupils come from Seville's most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Of some 200,000 Andalusian pupils who eat daily at school, 50 percent do so free through a coupon system, more than double the number in 2008 when the crisis struck. The government plans to increase the amount it spends on school meals from 7.5 million euros to 8.5 million. The money will come from the 16 million budgeted for 2013 for "food solidarity."

The administration also intends to guarantee that seniors in danger of social exclusion receive enough to survive.

The plan in Andalusia will operate Monday to Friday, but the Canary Islands regional government has announced it will open schools throughout the summer to prevent children from going hungry. This academic year, 16,000 students have stopped eating at school because their families cannot meet the 25-euro monthly fee. The administration is to pick up the tab for these pupils.

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