Imagine having to decide whether to afford food or rent or stay clean. Many citizens take having basic hygiene items such as toothpaste, soap and shampoo for granted, but for the neediest members of society, these basic items can prove difficult to come by.

A food bank in Chesterfield hopes to make it easier for those in need to keep clean. Grooming isn’t only a matter of vanity — failure to maintain proper basic hygiene can increase the risk of many diseases. Everybody deserves the basic human dignity that comes with being clean.

How the Chesterfield Food Bank Hopes to Help

Across the UK, over 14 million citizens live in poverty, and nearly one-third of them are children. Hygiene poverty doesn’t only occur among those collecting welfare payments. Many members of the working poor struggle to afford even the most meager basics like shampoo due to the high costs of housing and utility bills.

Women, in particular, struggle to afford basic hygiene items. They need to invest in sanitary products, particularly menstrual products, and those raising infants need nappies for their babies. Experts estimate women in the UK spend approximately £128 per year (over $150) on feminine hygiene products.

The project’s coordinator, Hannah Hart, previously worked with the Red Box Project distributing hygiene items to schools. She currently is soliciting donations in the north Derbyshire area. Those who are interested in helping out can follow the Chesterfield branch of The Hygiene Bank on Facebook.

Hygiene Issues Damage Human Health

Hygiene poverty can result in considerable health woes — keeping clean is vital to positive health outcomes. Those who are unable to afford sufficient hand soap, for example, may consume foods in an unsafe manner. Those unable to afford cleaning products may prep food on dirty surfaces, and failure to disinfect fixtures such as light switches and doorknobs on a regular basis can result in spreading infectious diseases.

A day of the stomach gripes or a week spent in bed with the flu doesn’t represent the only health issues stemming from poor hygiene. Failure to brush and floss teeth regularly results in gum disease and tooth loss. Streptococcus mutans, which is a bacterial cause of tooth decay, can cause acute stroke, and researchers have found a link between poor oral hygiene and increased risks of cardiovascular disease.

Poor Hygiene Perpetuates the Cycle of Poverty

Poor hygiene also perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Those who are unclean encounter much greater difficulty in finding employment. Missing front teeth can unfortunately create a poor impression as well, making it difficult to obtain work in a customer service position, a primary industry for low-wage workers.

Worldwide, over 800,000 people perish annually from lack of proper sanitation. It boggles the mind that in a wealthy nation, people still struggle to keep themselves properly groomed. While many of the diseases claiming lives in developing countries rarely exist in the U.S. and UK, hygiene poverty can still kill. Those trapped in a cycle of poverty experience high levels of despair, creating a comorbid mental health crisis.

Indeed, recent research finds a direct correlation between poverty and the rates of suicide. Even among those who resist taking their own lives, substance abuse instances soar. Addiction further perpetuates the cycle, rendering it impossible for many to hold down steady work. Finally, children whose parents cannot keep them groomed often face horrific bullying at school. No child deserves to suffer because their parents lack sufficient income.

Treating All People with Respect and Dignity

Hygiene poverty further toughens the already hard row the poorest UK citizens have to hoe. By supporting the Chesterfield hygiene bank and similar organizations, we can provide people with the basic human dignity that comes when they can clean and groom themselves.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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