School holiday meals to combat child poverty

Dr Philip McCarthy is the new CEO of CSAN who has a background in leadership in the NHS and took up his post on 1 December 2015.

The problem of food poverty and hunger in the UK is a long standing one, exacerbated in recent years. CSAN and its member charities have highlighted a number of factors which contribute to this reality in recommendations to the recent ‘Feeding Britain’ report published last Thursday.

The primary root cause of the growing reliance on food banks by thousands of people daily to meet their basic needs. An All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into Food Poverty and Hunger called ‘Feeding Britain was created in April 2014, made up of a consortium of over 100 NGOs, community, faith and civil society groups, is the result of this broad consensus to achieve zero poverty in the UK.

The recommendations we made affect vulnerable children and adults alike and centre on addressing complex difficulties within the system, which lead to service users and clients in our network to often go without food. However the problem which affects children is most startling and is often hidden.

3.9 million children live in income poverty (defined as 60% below the average income) according to Magic Breakfast. And 1 in 4 children have one hot meal a day – their school lunch, according to research by Child Poverty Action Group

A child’s education is affected by the impacts of child food poverty and hunger.

Catholic Children’s Society conducted research into hunger in primary school children and all head teachers reported there were children in their schools whose educational attainment was affected by hunger.

Catholic Children’s Society Westminster set up a crisis fund so that any teacher can apply to finance extra school meals, which priests can also apply for if a child suffering from food poverty is known to them.

Debt, lack of financial management, benefit issues (sanctions, delays, incorrect payments) and chaotic home lives, or a combination of all, can mean parents struggle to provide three healthy meals a day for children.

Unfortunately it is difficult to know how many children suffer in this way, as it’s not currently tracked and often parents are reluctant to admit to their child going hungry due to fear that social services will take their child or children away.

CSAN recommended to ‘Feeding Britain’ that projects should be explored, based in primary schools which often act as community hubs, to provide meals at least once a day during school holidays.

These hubs could also offer wrap around services which help address the root causes of food poverty and hunger. This is because Catholic Children’s Society Westminster also tell us that simply delivering food parcels is not the only way to address the problems of food poverty and hunger.

We therefore warmly welcome the report’s recommendation for a national programme targeted at eliminating child hunger during the school holidays and hope the Government act to tackle this crisis.

This recent report marks a positive development in challenging food poverty and hunger. The people our members work with have the support of Feeding Britain behind them to review progress of the recommendations, so that families don’t have to face the reality of going hungry.



The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.