Hunger does not seem to be a subject that has figured prominently in the present general election campaign, yet its growing occurrence, particularly among children, is a national disgrace.
Two recent reports highlighted the growing
scandal. The first from the Trussell Trust, which administers 427 foodbanks
countrywide, reported how the number of people receiving emergency three day
supplies of food rose by 73,000 over the past year to 1.182,954 people. The
total included some 460,0000 children.
The primary causes of referral to foodbanks
were low pay (26.45%) and benefit delays (26.01%)
The second report titled, Hungry Holidays,
from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger (APPGH) told how up to three
million children risk going hungry in the school holidays. “This group
comprises over a million children growing up in poverty who receive free school
meals during term time, as well as an estimated two million who are
disqualified from free school meals because their parents work for their
poverty,” says the report. The latter group are those, so low paid, that they
receive working tax credits.
There are many children across the country
who receive free school meals, as well as attending breakfast and supper clubs
where they can be fed. However, during the 13 weeks of school holidays, these
same children can fall down the cracks. The meals that were being provided suddenly
For those on low pay, the need to suddenly
provide, previously supplied, meals adds to the pressure on already strained
The hunger is evidenced in a number of
ways, with some children simply not eating, parents going without so that their
children have something to eat and others who provide cheap stodgy food which
does not fill hungry stomachs and can bring about malnutrition.
The report describes children vomiting or
dropping out of physical activity session, not having eaten properly for
These conditions also ofcourse stop the
child actually being a child in the sense of being able to enjoy their
holidays, going out to play and be with others.
Evidence received by the APPGH revealed how:
“those children who exist on an impoverished diet, while taking part in little
or no activity, return to school malnourished, sluggish and dreary-some even
lose “significant” amounts of weight, whilst others gain a lot of weight.”
This group are disadvantaged compared to
their counterparts who have had happy, healthy holiday breaks. They are then
likely to fall behind – the rich/poor divide, thus being further increased.
The response to the sight of so many
children suffering from hunger has come in the main from the schools, church
and community based voluntary groups. They have set up holiday meal and fun
ventures to meet the growing need. These
have helped children and parents alike, not just with the provision of food but
also with information on nutrition, budgetary and other skills.
The APPGH has called for government to
impose a statutory duty on local authorities to “facilitate and co-ordinate the
delivery of free meals and fun during school holidays.” There should be
flexibility in the delivery of these services, with the APPGH suggesting that
the voluntary sector playing a leading role.
The APPGH ask for government backing post
general election for its Free School Meals (Provision in Holidays) Bill, which
would impose the statutory duty on local authorities and provide the
flexibility for those authorities to provide the services required in their
The work should then be funded by £41.5
million from the sugary drinks levy to “abolish school holiday hunger.”There
should also be training and minimum standard provisions.
Something certainly needs to be done to
address the scandal of growing hunger amongst children and adults in what is
the fifth richest country in the world. The ever growing number of people going
to food banks, amid a country that boasts over 100 billionaires is testimony to
a society that grows more and more unequal with each passing month. A country
that likes to think it is progressing forward into the 21st century but in
terms of much of the population seems only to be going backward to ever more
Dickensian times for many people. It must be hoped that the political parties pick up
the challenges put down by these two
reports to address the growing levels of poverty and inequality in our society.
Failure to do so, will lead only to ever
more serious consequences in the future.
-more details - Hungry Holidays report - http://www.frankfield.com/upload/docs/Hungry%20Holidays.pdf
Trussell Trust - www.trusselltrust.org
Published - 4/5/2017 Why do 3 million children go hungry in the school holidays in the world's fifth richest country? - https://newint.org/blog/2017/05/04/child-poverty-in-world-fifth-richest-country/
- Hunger epidemic should figure in election battle - http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/32468
- published - Morning Star - 11/5/2017 The scandal of three million starving children https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-eece-The-scandal-of-the-three-million-starving-children#.WRQgpqPdX4g