Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Poor kids skipping meals: study

CHALLENGES:A growing number of underprivileged kids are skipping breakfast and even lunch, while up to 60 percent have emotional issues by high school

By Hsiao Yu-hsin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Nutritional deficiencies, emotional issues and confusion regarding future vocation are the three major issues faced by children from disadvantaged families, a study released on Tuesday by the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families showed.

A total of 688 children and teenagers who received aid from the organization from 2008 to last year were interviewed for the study, titled Taiwan Database of Children and Youth in Poverty — The Panel Study of Vulnerable Children, the foundation said.

The study found that 15.7 percent of the children and teenagers regularly skipped breakfast, and that there was a growing trend of skipping both breakfast and lunch altogether.

More than half, or 54.2 percent, of those interviewed last year said they did not eat breakfast, which an analysis said might have been caused by not having cultivated the habit, the foundation said.

About two-thirds of children and teenagers interviewed last year said they skipped lunch because they “wanted to cut expenses,” a significant increase from 2009, it said.

Compared with normal families, disadvantaged families are unable to provide a balanced diet or a healthy lifestyle for their children due to financial pressures, former Bureau of Health Promotion director-general Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said.

Parents of a disadvantaged family hope — at best — to provide a full belly for everyone in the family, whereas parents of an average family have access to information, time and means to better support their children’s dietary intake, buy more nutritious food, and manage their use of computers and other electronics, Chiu said.

About 30 percent of children and 60 percent of teenagers in high school were affected by emotional issues, such as nervousness or being easily angered, to the point that the quality of their sleep was affected, the study found.

The number of children affected by such issues has risen over the past 10 years, the study showed.

The foundation said that its volunteers also found that the majority of young people in disadvantaged families hope to improve their family’s fortunes through their own efforts.

However, when asked about specific plans to meet their goals, or what jobs they wanted to pursue, the ratio of young people who answered “I do not know” was greater last year than in 2015, the study showed.

The results highlight a growing trend of young people who feel lost about their future and lack self-confidence, the foundation said.

Society should help children from disadvantaged families, 104 Job Bank assistant director Wang Jung-chun (王榮春) said.

Adding vocational consultation to psychotherapy in school would help such children figure out and plan for their career, Wang said, adding that exposure to the work environment would help them find a steady job after graduating.

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