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“Do you ever go to bed hungry?”

February 1, 2005
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A new survey by Israel’s Health Ministry shows that poverty is much more pervasive than previously estimated.

The survey on children’s health and welfare highlights the degree to which children have been victimized by the economic situation and the growing socioeconomic divide. It included the participation of 6,487 7th- to 12th-grade youngsters throughout Israel and, among other questions, asked, “Do you ever go to bed hungry, without having eaten dinner?”

Over 18% of the respondents answered in the affirmative, saying that at least once a week there is no food in their homes, and they have to go to bed without having eaten a proper meal.

Among the Jewish population, the number of malnourished children was 13.5%. Among the Arab population, one in three children is poverty-stricken to the point of malnutrition.

The survey showed that, in addition to those families who are unable to guarantee a reasonable food supply to their children, many more are forced to give their children unbalanced diets, based almost entirely on carbohydrates and starches, with insufficient protein and vitamins. “The long-term ramifications of this kind of under-nutrition are significant”, said Dr. Dorit Nitzan-Klosky, who was in charge of the project for the ministry.

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, chairman of the Child Welfare Council, a children and youth rights watchdog organization, lambasted the state for what he called “years of benign and not so benign neglect, which have produced the current situation.” He said that there is a direct correlation between the surge in school violence and the results of the survey. A hungry kid is much more likely to be violent than an adequately fed one, due to both emotional (anger, frustration, jealousy) and organic (reduced capacity to control temper and impulsive behavior) factors.


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