Rise in emergency food for children during school summer holidays

children playingNew data revealed last week by an anti-poverty charity shows that there was an increase in demand for emergency food for children during the summer holidays last year.

The figures, published on Friday 3 August by the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank network, show that the level of support needed for children was markedly higher during the summer months.

Between July and August 2017, the Trussell Trust’s nationwide network of more than 420 foodbanks provided 204,525 three-day emergency supplies, 74,011 of which went to children. In comparison, between May and June 2017, 70,510 supplies went to children.

Wanting to be known by just her first name, Vicky, a Tavistock Foodbank volunteer, based at Tavistock United Reformed Church, west Devon, said: ‘We have seen a rise during the school holidays. Last week we had 11 families [collect supplies]. That’s quite high considering we are only open once a week for two hours. We’ve got busier. Other areas, like Plymouth, are even more so. But people are very generous with their donations.’

Samantha Stapley, The Trussell Trust’s Director of Operations, said: ‘Foodbanks cannot, and must not, be a long-term solution to hunger at any time of year. No one should face going hungry, and although our network will be doing all they can this summer to help families struggling to make the money they have stretch to cover the essentials, no charity can replace people having enough money for the basics.’

Published last year, an All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger report estimated that the loss of free school meals during the holidays adds between £30 and £40 a week to parents’ outgoings for one child.

Ms Stapley continued: ‘There are changes we can make as a nation to help during the holidays, but if we are to protect each other from hunger whatever the time of year, we have to go further than that. We know particular groups of people are most likely to need a foodbank, so let’s make sure no one is swept into destitution. Our benefits system can, and must, act as an anchor to protect people from being pulled into poverty.’

Although there are a number of practical responses across the UK this summer aimed at supporting families – from those run by foodbanks to church-based and council-run projects – the charity is still urging policymakers to not lose sight of the underlying issues that leave families needing foodbanks at any time of year.

The Trussell Trust is calling for better support for families to be in place throughout the year by unfreezing child benefits and making changes to work allowances so families keep more of their earnings before universal credit payments are reduced.

9 Aug 2018