End Their HungerEditor: There are hungry children in...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 06, 1991

End Their Hunger

Editor: There are hungry children in Baltimore County. That is a fact.

Recently, Robert Dubel, the county superintendent of schools, made a charitable contribution of nearly $10,000 to establish a breakfast fund for hungry children in Baltimore County (The Sun, 7/13/91). Generous as this gesture is, charity alone is not the answer for the thousands of children who begin the school day hungry.

More than 7,000 Baltimore County elementary-level students are signed up for the national school lunch program meals, which they receive in school each day during the school year. The federal government also offers a school breakfast program. In every school system in Maryland except Baltimore County, thousands of children have access to a nutritious breakfast. Instead, Baltimore County public schools offer an alternative program. In the 1989-90 school year, they reported serving only 116 breakfast snacks.

The school breakfast program is a federally funded meal program which requires no county funds but would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues each year, as evidenced by the experience of the other large counties in Maryland. This program is an entitlement for children from low-income families and is also available at a small cost to other children. In contrast, Dr. Dubel's one-time donation does not provide a permanent solution for the children in Baltimore County.

For the last decade, Dr. Dubel has requested an exemption from the state's requirement that schools offer breakfast. Each year the state superintendent of schools has granted that exemption. The time is long overdue for Baltimore County public schools to make breakfast available to hungry children; it is an essential component of their educational preparation. All students deserve access to a dependable and nutritious meal through the School Breakfast Program.

Melissa Zieve.

Baltimore.

The writer is program director for the Maryland Food Committee.

Rotgut Curse

Editor: The need for regulation of cheap wine sales and concomitant cleanup of miniature liquor bottles from downtown sidewalks sounded convincing in The Sun ''Skid Row'' editorial. So did Michael Dresser's June 30 article and its photo of a disgustingly littered alley by the Cross Street Market.

Whenever I pass this same alley -- it leads up to the bank and the market stalls beyond -- I wonder at the city's open-spigot policy. Given the vulnerability of some of the surrounding population, how did the Liquor Board end up licensing three package stores and six taverns in one block?

The fatalistic answer from a long-term resident is that things have always been this way in South Baltimore. The community has more than a century's tradition of vigorous imbibing. And the street alcoholics aren't predominantly itinerants. Many of them grew up here.

To the merchants, they are a scourge, seen as vagrants and winos who litter, loiter and panhandle. ''Yes,'' the vendor at the vegetable stall urges. ''Board up the liquor stores and move all the drunks out.''

From another viewpoint, the ''public inebriates'' are regarded as a segment of homelessness. (In April, the Homeless Information Exchange cited a 33 percent rate of alcoholism among the nation's adult, sheltered persons.)

Workers at the South Baltimore Emergency Relief agency say that, apart from the acknowledged derelicts, a significant number of their clients could benefit from rehabilitation programs in conjunction with a ''wet'' shelter (which the neighborhood doesn't have). Another barrier to treatment is the severe lack of free ''detoxification'' facilities. The 15-bed Baltimore Recovery Center is the only place to admit patients without insurance.

Efforts to regulate the flow of liquor and wine in already licensed retail outlets will turn out to be a tricky business. Perhaps, though, as part of a comprehensive plan, it's worth trying.

New energies directed to education and treatment may be more rewarding. By peeling away the fatalism of yesteryear we can begin to recognize alcoholism for what it is: a community health problem.

Sally Gray.

Baltimore.

Cozying Syria

Editor: First, President Bush overlooks the Tiananmen Square massacre and gives China most-favored-nation status. Then, he forgives Egypt its debt. He pulls out of Iraq and lets the Kurds face a massacre.

Now, he is ready to cozy up to Syria, a terrorist country, even by his own admission.

Israel always has been ready to meet any Arab country at the bargaining table. Let us not forget the facts: the Arab world is at war with Israel, not the other way around. There is still an economic boycott against Israel. Long before there was an occupied West Bank, wars have been declared on Israel.

Why is Mr. Bush squeezing the only democracy in the Middle East? Why has the U.S. pressured Germany into holding back promised loans?

Syria is now very skillfully creating a wedge between Israel and the U.S. What does Syria lose or give up by coming to the bargaining table now? Nothing.

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