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Holiday hunger in London: the numbers and the response

September 15, 2017

In London the Mayor’s Fund set up a Kitchen Social project to help feed children entitled to free school meals over the summer. Kim Chaplain the director writes for End Hunger on why their experiences this summer show the extent of the problem and the need for government action on holiday food provision. 

Summer is now officially over and children are getting stuck into a brand-new school year. They’ll benefit from teacher support and guidance, enjoy and learn from peer-to peer interaction and some will even receive free school meals.

The stark reality just six weeks ago, was decidedly different.

We worked with 34 community organisations across 16 London boroughs to provide approx. 10,000 free meals to more than 1,600 children during the summer holidays. Churches, adventure playgrounds and community centres across London were among those providing free meals for the capital’s hungry school children.

Delivered as part of our Kitchen Social programme, these hubs are located in Bexley, Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Havering, Hillingdon, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark and Wandsworth boroughs; and we’re now working hard to ensure these organisations have the resources they need to continue supporting hungry children during the October half-term.

Many of the hubs cited seeing an increase in the number of new members attending over the summer and there was positive engagement and interest in healthy cooking and for putting those skills to use at home.

It should come as no surprise that hungry children are at a profound disadvantage.

Over the next 3 years, Kitchen Social aims to help 330 local community groups across London feed 50,000 children in a programme easily scalable to a national level. The programme was launched in January 2017, in partnership with the Greater London Authority and local councils, and is currently supported by several London businesses.

Support should be delivered in local communities by local organisations but they need the resources to be able to do that.

We feel that all UK parliaments should follow the example set by Wales and set aside funding to address the issue of holiday hunger and food insecurity and it’s essential that central government explore the creation of a statutory responsibility for the issue.

Frank Field’s School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill is a welcome step in the right direction and though it’s encouraging to see that 126 cross-party MPs to date have backed it, it’s disheartening to hear that only 16 London MPs were included in this number.

Food is a basic human right. If a child is assessed as needing support while at school then their needs should not be ignored in the holiday period, when all the good work at school can be undone.

Holiday hunger among children in a city as prosperous as London cannot be accepted.

We call on all London MPs to do the right thing – step up and back this bill.

At End Hunger’s national conference on October 17 there will be sessions on the campaign to end holiday hunger. You can register to come along here. If you want to write to your MP asking them to support the Holiday Provision Bill then you can do so through our website

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