The Trussell Trust warns of foodbanks braced for their busiest-ever summer, as parents struggle to feed children over the school holidays – with many foodbanks extending their offer to ‘holiday clubs’ where parents can’t cover childcare costs.
With 24housing reporting that destitution was on the rise, the Trust went public, with stats showing 87,496 food parcels went to youngsters during the summer holidays last year – a 20% rise on the same period in 2017.
Each parcel contains enough food for three meals a day for three days – meaning more than three quarters of a million meals were provided.
Overall demand for emergency aid over the six-week break soared by a fifth last year, compared with 12 months earlier.
Volunteers are expecting a fresh surge from families whose kids receive free school meals during term-time.
Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said foodbanks would do “all they can” to help families over the summer, with many running holiday clubs to support parents who find their income simply won’t stretch to meet the extra pressure of missing free school meals or paying for additional childcare during the holidays.
“But no charity can replace the dignity of having enough money for the basics,” said Revie.
“Ultimately, we should all be protected from needing a food bank’s help, no matter the time of the year.
“If we are to end hunger in the UK, we need to make sure everyone is anchored from being swept into poverty.
“The government needs to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage. Every family should have enough money coming in for a decent standard of living.
“No child should face going hungry in the UK,” she said.
A report from Parliament’s cross-party group on hunger last year estimated that the loss of free school meals during the holidays adds between £30 and £40 a week to parents’ outgoings for one child.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said it was “simply wrong” that families should have to rely on foodbanks to feed their children at any time.
“The extra costs families face during school holidays can often push them into severe hardship,” she said.
“The high level of housing costs, the spread of low paid, insecure work, and deep cuts to social security have left families struggling to meet basic household bills – government cannot simply abdicate responsibility for families being pushed into poverty and children going hungry in the summer.”
Lib Dem Work and Pensions spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the number reliant on food banks was a “shocking indictment” on the government.
“[Tories] have presided over a toxic mix of social security cuts that have left thousands of people unable to afford the basics,” she said.
In response, the government references raising the personal allowance, freezing fuel duty, increasing the National Living Wage, and ‘ending’ the benefit freeze next year – which neither of the two contenders for PM seems willing to commit to.
Over a third of all emergency food parcels distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network goes to children.
Foodbank use in the UK is soaring.
Over 2018-19, food bank use escalated throughout the year with a 19% total increase, and it is expected this trend will continue, prompting concerns that this summer will be the Trussell Trust network’s busiest to date.
Ahead of the schools break-up, the Trussell Trust is urging people to check what items their local food bank is most in need of.
Between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network provided 1,583,668 emergency supplies to people in crisis – 577,618 of these supplies went to children.
This is an 18.8% increase on the previous year, when 1,332,952 emergency supplies went to people in crisis. 484,026 of these went to children.
In the face of such stats, the government has rejected a ‘Minister for Hunger’, despite being shamed by a Commons select committee for failing to recognise levels of food insecurity as among the worst in Europe – especially for children.
Accused of whitewashing a rising crisis, the government instead effectively handed hunger strategy to the DWP hands hunger strategy to the DWP – vilified as a primary factor in food insecurity through its implementation of welfare ‘reform’.
In January, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) released a report on hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity in the UK.
The report found food insecurity is significant and growing, with levels among the worst in Europe and children found to be at particular risk.
The government had failed to recognise and respond to food insecurity, having allowed these issues to “fall between the cracks”, the committee said.
In May, a human rights report into UK hunger said the government had “fingerprints all over” soaring UK food poverty.
References to the report in the Commons were met with jeers from the Tory backbenches.