Imagine being faced with the prospect of having to provide 60 extra meals over the summer in order to stop your kids from going hungry. Your weekly budget is already maxed out and you have no means of getting extra funds but if you don’t, your children will go without food.
This scenario has become increasingly common for families whose children rely on school breakfast clubs and free or subsidised lunches, according to the UK’s largest foodbank provider, the Trussell Trust, and Imran Hameed, founder of the country’s first 24-hour emergency food delivery service, which serves the West Midlands.
Hameed says the school holidays are his busiest periods. So much so, that the volunteer-run Salma foodbank in Smethwick estimates it will make between 100 to 120 deliveries a day over the summer holiday.
“If we do not deliver then kids will not have any breakfast or dinner,” says Hameed. “I’ve got kids who say to me they like going to school, not because they like studying, but because they get food... free school meals.”
With the summer holidays fast approaching, it’s estimated that foodbank use will rise across the UK.
A report by the Trussell Trust revealed that in July and August 2016 there were 4,412 more three-day emergency food supplies given to children than in the previous two months.
Of the children receiving support from foodbanks, almost half (47%) were between the ages of five and 11 years old.
This year they are expecting a spike again, Garry Lemon of The Trussell Trust told HuffPost UK.
The situation is exacerbated by the loss of free school meals during the holidays, which adds between £30 and £40 a week to parents’ outgoings per child, according to a 2017 report from The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger.
The Trussell Trust runs a Holiday Club to try and assist parents who are struggling. This provides a space for families to take part in learning activities while eating a meal, all free of charge.
Volunteers then chat to parents to understand why they are struggling and signpost them to relevant local services for further support. People using the foodbank are encouraged to access food parcels no more than three times in six months, but there are no restrictions on how often people can attend a Holiday Club.
Latest figures from the charity suggest the biggest driver of foodbank use is benefit payments not covering the cost of living essentials. “This is not only the biggest reason for referral, but also the fastest growing,” says Lemon.
“It’s hard to break free from hunger if there isn’t enough money coming in to cover the rising cost of absolute essentials like food and housing. For too many people, staying above water is a daily struggle.”
So what is the solution? Ultimately levels of payment need to stay in line with the cost of essentials, he says, particularly for groups of people who are already more likely to need foodbanks such as disabled people, those dealing with an illness, families with children and single parents.
In the meantime, members of the public can help by checking to see if their local foodbank is running low on food (which can be done here) and donating products if they are.
“No family should struggle to afford food and need a foodbank at any time of year,” adds Lemon. “Whether it’s the summer holidays or not.”