Christmas cheer?

18th December 1998 at 00:00
Any killjoy who tells children that the thing they need most on the Christmas table is a Brussels sprout deserves all the ridicule they get. But, judging by the latest statistics on the fitness levels and diet of young people in Britain, the benefits of fruit and veg should be broadcast very much more loudly.

The children of the poorest families are, we are told, wobbling towards early graves with a can of fizzy drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. But does this "news", or the revelation that 70,000 children were homeless last year, have an impact any more? There has been a constant stream of such findings since at least 1904, when the Inter-departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration released its report. (In the early years of the century the panic was over tinned food rather than tinned drinks).

By the 1960s, politicians were predicting that poverty and malnourishment could be eradicated. Unfortunately, we no longer have such confidence or idealism and seem to accept that, as the Bible says, the poor are always with us. Nevertheless, it will be a sad reflection on our times if we can no longer raise any anger about child poverty - especially at Christmas.

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