EXPERTS from across British society have today joined the growing calls for an end to holiday hunger.
22 signatories, including education leaders, union representatives, charity directors and senior clergy, have signed a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph(£), urging the Government to take action.
The letter comes on the eve of the first reading of Frank Field MP’s School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill, which calls on the Government to give all councils the duty and resources to provide food and activities during the school holidays, for children who would otherwise go hungry. The bill is expected to be on parliament on September 5 and you can email your MP to ask them to support the bill here.
The letter cites first-hand accounts of children returning to school in a worse educational, health and developmental position than when they ended the previous term, and argues that the Government should safeguard children’s nutrition for the full 52 weeks a year, rather than only the 39 weeks in which they are at school.
Signatories included The Bishop of Durham, Stephen Chalke the head of a multi-academy trust representing 47 schools, Union General Secretaries and senior directors of several leading food, poverty and faith based charities.
The full text of the letter, and the list of signatories, are included at the foot of this article.
The End Hunger UK campaign calls on the Government to make specific policy changes, to create a society in which nobody need go to bed hungry.
Holiday hunger threatens children across the country, and means the holidays are a time of hardship rather than enjoyment for many. To see such broad support for Government action is very pleasing and heartening. We hope MPs from all parties will help to make the new legislation law, and hope people will continue to press MPs of all parties to help make holiday hunger a thing of the past.
Text of the letter
As millions of children return to school in England and Wales, we should consider that, for many, the summer holidays will have been very difficult.
The crisis commonly termed “holiday hunger” is being increasingly reported. In April a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger suggested that food insecurity threatened as many as three million children during school holidays. However, the true scale of the problem remains unmeasured and unmonitored.
Successive governments and all parties have recognised the importance of free school meals, to assist the poorest families. It remains an area of inequality that such support is provided for only 39 weeks a year, rather than the full 52.
Early research into existing holiday meal and activity programmes has found tangible benefits for children, families and communities. In January, the Welsh government announced its investment in a national “Food and Fun” holiday programme that combined activities and meals. The UK Government should now follow suit.
The Labour MP Frank Field’s forthcoming School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill would place legal obligation on local authorities to ensure the provision of free meals and activities for those children who face going hungry over the summer break, and allocate funding for this. Readers can assist by asking their MPs to back this Bill. Their children and grandchildren should receive equal support, whether they are in Wales or Walsall, London or Leeds.
· Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty
· Carmel McConnell MBE, founder and Chief Executive of Magic Breakfast
· The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
· Rev Canon Steve Chalke MBE, Founder and Leader, Oasis Global
· Laura Sandys, Chair, The Food Foundation
· Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group
· Samantha Stapley, Operations Director, Trussell Trust
· Professor Jon May, Chair, Independent Food Aid Network
· Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union
· Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming
· James Cashmore, Director, Soil Association Food for Life
· The Rev John Proctor, General Secretary, United Reformed Church
· Rev Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference
· Helen Drewery, Head of Witness and Worship, Quakers in Britain
· Pete Richie, Executive Director, Nourish Scotland
· Lindsay Graham, Child Food Poverty Policy Advisor
· Janet Orrey, Co-chair, School Food Plan Alliance
· Geoff Tansey Chair of the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty
· Kerry Melville, Belfast Food Network
· Fiona Twycross, London Assembly Member
· Victoria Williams, Food Matters