The Awful Truth About School Holidays Is Thousands Of Families Will Go Hungry

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there is no excuse for this to carry on, Emma Revie writes.
Press Association

As children up and down the country enjoy their summer holidays, we must face an awful truth. In reality, the prospect of the summer holidays is something thousands of families dread, because many will struggle without free school lunches. For people already living on an extremely tight budget, this long stretch adds other costs too, such as childcare.

The result? Food banks across the Trussell Trust network are expecting their busiest summer yet. During the summer holidays last year, our network gave out more than 87,000 emergency food parcels to children across the UK. This is a 20% increase from 2017.

And these figures come against a backdrop of soaring food bank use in the UK with our food banks giving out over 1.6m emergency parcels to people in crisis last year – more than ever before.

“Behind these statistics are thousands of individuals – each with their own tale to tell.”

Behind these statistics are thousands of individuals – each with their own tale to tell. The groups of people most likely to be referred to a food bank are disabled people or those living with a health condition, families with children, and single parents.

These groups have seen particularly harsh reductions in the levels of benefits they receive and with continual rises of the costs of necessities like food and housing, compounded with problems such as the wait for a payment under the Government’s new benefits system Universal Credit, they’re most likely to need a food bank’s help.

Families with children are particularly likely to be pulled into crisis, representing at least half of people at food banks, and single parent families are particularly at risk of needing a food bank.

Work does not always protect families from falling into crisis: households with children, who have been referred to a food bank, are more likely to be in work than households without children, but that work isn’t anchoring them from needing a food bank’s help.

This isn’t right. But it can change. Ending hunger in the UK might not be easy, but it can be done.

Often food banks struggle with food supplies over the summer holidays due to increased need. Therefore in the short-term, we’re asking the public to donate their local food bank’s most needed items.

Food banks will do all they can to help families over the summer, with some running holiday clubs or working with other local groups to support parents who find their income simply won’t stretch to cover the cost of extra meals or additional childcare during the holidays.

“Ultimately though, we do not want to be here in the long-term, continuing to pick up the pieces.”

Ultimately though, we do not want to be here in the long-term, continuing to pick up the pieces.

The Government’s funding of holiday programmes and additional support from local councils, community groups and food banks will make a real difference to struggling families.

But if we are to end hunger in the UK, families must have enough money year-round.

Tackling delays and gaps in benefits, which affect families’ ability to afford essentials, should be treated as a priority by the Government. The most immediate relief for thousands of people would be to end the wait for a

Universal Credit payment, which is at least five weeks long, and a key driver of increased need at food banks in our network.

That’s why we launched the #5WeeksTooLong campaign – we believe we’re stronger together and so far, we’ve had the support of more than 40 leading charities all backing our call on the Government to end the wait.

Policy changes can make a huge difference – for example the policies that have seen a huge reduction in pensioner poverty over the last 30 years. We have the power to change these issues and find solutions.

We’re a country that prides itself on making sure proper support is in place for each of us whenever help is needed, whether that’s through our health service or benefits system. Illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job could happen to any of us, and we owe it to each other to make sure sufficient support is in place at times when it’s unavoidably needed.

We need to ensure that everyone has enough money coming in to cover the cost of essentials, whether from secure work that pays the real Living Wage or a benefits system that anchors people from being swept into poverty. Working together, standing shoulder to shoulder with food banks and people in crisis, we can create a future in which no one needs to use a food bank.

We’ll continue to campaign and urge the Government to do all it takes to end hunger in the UK once and for all. We know it can be done, and in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there is no excuse for this to carry on.

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