Of course, underneath the article were the comments by readers. Inevitably one person reacted by blaming the parents. They pointed out that for the cost of a packet of cigarettes you could buy seven kilos of porridge oats in Tesco's and give your child a healthy filling breakfast for a hundred days in a row. It costs a pittance in UK terms to stop a child actually being hungry; claiming that "food or warmth is a choice" is a nonsense when heating costs so much more than adequate food.
There is a temptation to jump on the bandwagon offered by those comments. To point out that as a student I lived happily on a bag of red lentils and a chicken stock cube for weeks without hunger and most of all to comment that SOS Children feeds children who really are hungry from poverty in parts of the world where they do not even have a pittance, where the price of a UK packet of cigarettes would amount to a week's wages. Perhaps I should point out that sponsoring a child this Christmas costs just 67p a day, and that we don't just feed children we provide a loving home, a mother, an education and a future. With the big mail-house charities planning a "joint campaign on food and hunger" in January, focusing on the emotions which started Live Aid, I am sure others will make these kind of comments. As soon as Christmas is over, famine and hunger will come through the letterbox of us all.
However, I think a view would not be fair. It would not be fair because when I lived off lentils I was a student, I was not a child. The parents who spend money on cigarettes or other items are the parents not the hungry children. At the end of the day it is the children themselves who are hungry and they are not to blame for their hunger whether they are in Essex or East Africa. It is no fairer to ignore the child because of their parents than it is to ignore the child because their government is corrupt or because a mining multi-national has diverted their water source. And neither children in Essex nor children in East Africa are entirely inaccessible to our help. As grown-up, responsible humans we should care about children and care for children. We should try to feed them but also we should try to work out what causes them to be hungry, homeless, poor and with little prospect. That of course is exactly what SOS Children does, and we do so appreciating the support of our donors some of whom really do eat porridge for a day to allow us to carry on.