Children’s Nutritional Fund

An exceptional Roma village and the situation elsewhere

A rather lengthy article appeared in Népszabadság about a public works success story in Gyulaj, a village of 1,000 inhabitants in Tolna County. The population of Gyulaj is 65-70% Roma, up from ten to fifteen years ago when Roma made up only 40% of the village’s population. Unemployment in villages with a majority Roma population is very high. In the past the unemployed lived on state assistance. There was limited opportunity to move from welfare to work, even publicly funded work. Although these villages received government grant money aimed at easing Roma unemployment even before the public works program of 2010, the funds were not always put to good use by the local authorities. Gyulaj is lucky because its mayor, Mrs. Károly Dobos, has vision and uses the funds to promote self-sustenance, not just for activities like street cleaning. But, as the article also notes, “it is a heroic struggle to keep the village alive.”

Source: Népszabadság

Source: Népszabadság

The village can employ between 80 and 100 men and women on the village’s small, twelve hectare farm. They grow vegetables for use in the kitchen owned by the village, with some left over for sale. They raise animals as well. The mayor claims that they are self-sufficient as far as food is concerned.

The village got not only public works money but also grant money to buy agricultural equipment and a separate freezer unit. New furnaces that use wood chips heat the municipal buildings; apparently three men are kept busy by chopping and and making wood chips.

The village also received a grant to train people to perform small repairs in municipal buildings. The Knights of Malta are also active in the village. The Hungarian section of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta sent social workers to Gyulaj. These social workers live with the Roma families, helping them with their myriad problems.

But what will happen when there are no more public works projects? The mayor claims that they are planning for the day when they will no longer receive 70-80 million forints a year. The municipality, together with the Knights of Malta, is planning a cooperative to grow mushrooms. They already raise rabbits for sale. So, everything seems to be well under conrol.

Before we praise the public works program, however, we must keep in mind that the story of Gyulaj was published because it is the exception rather than the rule. The Orbán government claims that the public works program will lead to employment in the private sector. But shoveling snow or cleaning ditches is no path to private sector employment. Unfortunately, in most villages public works programs are dead ends. And dead ends with very low wages.

One of the public workers interviewed in the article seems satisfied. He and his wife have eight children and, with the additional child support from the state, he earns 77,300 forints a month. That is 250 euros for a family of ten. They can survive on that amount of money because the children receive their meals in school, meals that are supplied from the 7 hectares the public workers cultivate. Also, the municipality’s rabbits can be bought cheaply: 700 forints a kilogram–and we know about rabbits. There will be no shortage of them, so the price should drop further.

Gyulaj is a rare exception. Soon there will be no more money for the public workers, whose numbers swelled to boost the government’s popularity before the election. Mayors report that in some cases the number of workers will be cut  in half. Keep in mind that no dole will be forthcoming because the Orbán government abolished it. Gyulaj’s budget, however, will not be cut. Either the mayor is a very lucky woman or the government thinks it needs a few success stories.

Poverty remains a serious problem in Hungary. According to estimates, half a million children live in poverty and over 40,000 go to bed hungry. These children receive some meals in nurseries, pre-school institutions and schools on weekdays. But during the weekends there is often nothing to eat at home.

A charitable organization, the Children’s Nutrition Fund of Hungary, is working to alleviate this problem. (For more about the American branch of this non-profit see the post below.) The organization has been active since 1993. In 2012 80,000 families benefited from donations collected by CNFH, and last year 4,000,000 kilograms of food were distributed to children in need. And there is need because poverty is growing in Hungary.

Of course, not all those under the poverty line are Roma, but many of them are. They are also discriminated against. Gyulaj’s school is almost completely segregated and therefore, as the principal of the school told the Népszabadság reporter, students are not prepared for the kind of discrimination and hatred that is awaiting them once they step outside their village. In a way, they live in a bubble, unprepared for Hungarian reality.

CNFH believes that easing poverty can reduce racism as well. It is certainly a step in the right direction.

They cannot wait for the net—a call for donations, by József Barát

Can I have your attention for ten minutes? I would like to tell you about those Hungarian children who have no past yet but who are also losing their future. They are hungry, and it is not merely an unpleasantness till the next dish.

OK. Suppose ten minutes is too long, I can tell it in five. According to a member of the UN Committee for the Rights of Children, 200,000 Hungarian children go hungry from time to time. But there are 40,000 children who regularly starve when the school cafeterias are closed. There are 162 such days in the year.

The number of those in danger is growing. The statistical agency of the EU, the Eurostat, has pointed out that the number of Hungarians living in poverty is increasing. Last year it rose by 3% or 97,000 people, from 3,188,000 to 3,285,000. OECD data show that Hungary has suffered the largest decrease in social welfare expenditures of the Visegrad countries and Slovenia since the start of the economic crisis. It is the only country where between 2008 and 2013 the GDP decreased (7.1%) and at the same time social expenditures were cut (10%). As a result the number of impoverished has grown by 17%.

And of course children are the poorest of the poor. They make up 51% of Hungary’s impoverished, and as UNICEF’s Budapest office says, 50% of Hungary’s children live in conditions of material deprivation.

This article is not about politics, it is just to say that hungry children have to be helped now. I know the importance of giving people a net instead of fish. But nets are not for hungry children. They must eat today. They cannot wait till the net is ready to use. Hungry children will never make healthy grownups. Their physical, intellectual, and social development will be disturbed. And Hungarian society is going to suffer together with them. It will have to pay the price in social and healthcare expenses as well as the growing price of a huge system of penal institutions.

I want to tell you about a new organization, the Children’s Nutrition Fund (CNF).  CNF is the US based international sister organization of a well-known 20-year-old Hungarian charity of good standing, the Gyermekétkeztetési Alapítvány (GYEA). In 2010 it was able to distribute 6,148,000 kg worth of food, but last year this amount was only 1,828,000 kg. The need grew but donations fell sharply.  That is why founder Gabor Kiraly established a new international foundation registered in California. Last year it was granted 501(c) (3) status by the IRS.

Hungry children need your help now. Have you got the price of a holiday meal for them? Or if this is too much, just the value of a quick fast food restaurant lunch once a month? It is tax deductible. Or are you ready to be our volunteer? You can donate or get in touch with us through our website: or .

Or you can just write me an e-mail or call. Thank you.