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Children at the Table

cute little girl eating a cookie

A recent story making the rounds of social media, news sites and tv shows tells of the brouhaha created when a couple brought their toddler to dinner at the ultra-exclusive and pricey Chicago restaurant Alinea. Thousands of words sympathizing with parents who had a situation where they suddenly found themselves without a sitter. Thousands more on discussing whether other diners have a right to be undisturbed as they enjoy their $200 per plate dinner (not including wine) that must be purchased like theater tickets, often months in advance. A quick search of “Alinea baby” yields more than 613,000 results. While it perhaps was a genuine dilemma for those diners whose enjoyment was directly affected that night, and does raise questions of etiquette when dining out, it hardly seems a situation worthy of the amount of attention it received, not in light of more pressing issues facing many families.

Where are all the articles and discussion about the number of children in this country who experience hunger on a regular basis? The need is real and it is significant. From our annual report: there are 29,300 children under the age of 6 living in Richland County. 30% of them live in poverty. That’s higher than the national average. The national hunger fighting organization Share Our Strength reports that 16 million kids (1 out of 5) in the US live in homes where families struggle to put food on the table.

We know that education provides a clear way out of poverty for many families. That’s where Richland County First Steps comes in. We are working to make sure that all children in our community enter school healthy and ready to succeed through programs directed to young children, their families, and the child care environments in which they spend their time. We appreciate the investment the State of South Carolina has made in quality early care and education, and we are making the most of it: Last year we leveraged our state allocation to the tune of a 215% return. That’s 2 dollars from other sources for every $1 invested by South Carolina.

You can help. Contact your elected officials and tell them you support Richland County First Steps, and to not forget to make a place for children at the table.

Sarah Conrad is the editor of the RCFS blog. She has worked with organizations involved in early care and education since 2000. She is also the mother of a 21-month-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.