Hunger, food insecurity, isolation and stress – this growing phenomena has sadly become all too common across the country over the school summer break and is a daily reality for millions of children.
The cross-party and well respected Parliamentary Group on Hunger (APPG) warned Westminster earlier this year that due to benefit changes and close to a decade of cuts to school and council budgets, that up to 3 million children in the UK risk enduring six-weeks of hunger and malnutrition.
Unless something is done urgently, the APPG warns that children across the UK will suffer, and not just with empty stomachs. The malnutrition caused by missed meals and junk food that contains no nutritional value over the holiday period has also been shown to impede learning ability, leaving children lagging behind their school friends come September – sadly, this is the reality of life under this Tory Government.
We have been here before, yet the Government have done absolutely nothing to address a situation entirely of their own making. Many food banks operating up and down the country ran out of supplies by the end of just the first week of the school holidays last year, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealing that half of the children benefiting from food bank supplies over the summer of 2017 were of primary school age. Quite frankly, this is a disgraceful state of affairs.
No parent cuts out meals for their child through choice, they do so because they have no choice with many low income parents skipping meals themselves in order to feed their children. For low-income families who may be working several jobs, the summer holidays mean increased financial pressures as schools are closed and the lunches they would provide for their children disappear; not to mention the sky high cost of keeping your child in a nursery or other form of club.
There are some good news stories emerging from this chaos however. Feeding Britain, the charity set up by two of my Labour colleagues, Emma Lewell-Buck MP and Frank Field MP, expects to provide meals for 27,000 children in 79 clubs across England this summer. Carolyn Harris MP has started a Kids Lunch Club in Swansea to provide a free pack lunch to every child attending the holiday club.
Locally, St. Mary’s Church and Community Food Bank in Haughton Green was the first food bank to be opened in Tameside. Staffed and supported entirely by volunteers within the community the Church offers food parcels to families and individuals throughout Tameside and are open Tuesday to Friday every week.
Despite all the good work of charities and other organisations I still believe that the indignity of what people have to go through in one of the richest countries in the world just to feed themselves and their children is wrong – food poverty is the secret shame of this Government.