Church on the Street: Children in Burnley struggling with eating disorders due to poverty, reveals Pastor Mick Fleming
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Pastor Mick Fleming, founder of Church on the Street (COTS), says some children are so deprived that they go without food for two days and forego meals to allow their younger siblings to eat.
COTS has opened a second support hub to help tackle inequality after expanding into the 205-year-old former Burnley and Nelson United Reformed Church in Bethesda Street.
Pastor Mick Fleming said: "It’s so sad. I have had mothers crying, embarrassed, and asking, 'Can you help me?'
"I had a little girl come to me and say, 'My tummy makes funny noises at night.
"I said, 'Do you have anything to eat before bed?'
"She said, 'No, don’t be silly: you eat at school.'
"She didn’t even know she was having hunger pains."
His claims follow news that nearly a quarter of children - 4,803 - live in families that cannot afford food and shelter.
COTS supports "the new poor" - working families who have never struggled before but now cannot cover their bills due to the cost of living.
But amongst those living in poverty are "the most profound" addicts, who society has forgotten or tried to help "a million times," people "who can't cope with life" and turn to alcohol and drugs because "they don’t want to face living in a joyless world".
Pastor Mick says they are ill but demonised and that behind every addict could be an undiagnosed mental health condition or children who deserve help.