Speak out about holiday hunger
End Hunger aims to ensure children have access to nutritious food 365 days a year. We believe children deserve the best start in life. Childhood hunger shouldn’t be allowed to have a damaging impact on their health, attainment and opportunity. Lack of adequate nutrition impacts children’s development and ability to take part in education. End Hunger campaigns for government to support increased uptake of Healthy Start vouchers for new mothers, and calls for them to be uprated with inflation. We also campaign on the issue of holiday hunger.
Holiday hunger pushes many families into food poverty and insecurity. While many children from low-income families are entitled to free school meals during term time, there is currently no such provision during holidays. Local voluntary sector organisations ‘fill the gap’ in some places but this is far from universal.
A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger found that children were returning to school in a worse educational, health and developmental state than that in which they had left in the summer. That report found that as many as three million children face the risk of food insecurity this summer.
In Wales, the Assembly Government has taken action to ensure that all local authorities make provision for those at risk of food poverty as part of a national ‘Food and Fun’ programme. Similarly in London, the Mayor’s Fund has launched a ‘Kitchen Social’ project this year which helps children during the holidays who would be entitled to free school meals.
We believe that the Westminster government needs to follow where devolved governments have led. We believe the government should take responsibility for ensuring that children have access to nutritious food on the 170 days a year when they are not in school, particularly over long holiday periods
Frank Field MP has put forward a bill in Parliament which would have secured provision of food and activities in the school holidays across the UK. Thank you to the hundreds of you who have written to your MPs calling for them to support this Holiday Provision Bill. Although sadly this wasn’t passed, our message has been heard. As a result of the bill and our campaigning, the government has agreed to put in place a number of pilot schemes across the country, and will monitor the impact on children’s health and attainment.
This represents a major step forward in terms of the government taking responsibility for ending holiday hunger. Although we are disapointed they missed this opportunity to take lasting action which would ensure consistent provision across the country, we are glad they have taken a first step.
The bill will return to Parliament in April, and we will continue to keep pressure on the government in that time.