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Foodservice charity urges Government to do more to stop holiday hunger

National Food & Activity foundation charity Meals & More continues to warn that vital community-based holiday clubs providing square meals for millions of disadvantaged children across the UK could be under threat without a significant boost in Government funding.

Meals & More was started by leading foodservice business Brakes in 2015 to protect every child’s right to good food throughout the year and is supported by many other food businesses. As part of its mission to end school holiday child hunger, it has grown from three clubs in 2015 to 154 clubs in the summer of 2018, reaching more than 11,000 children and providing more than 100,000 meals. Meals & More is pledging to serve 1 Million Meals over the next 5 years…but this can only happen with adequate funding.

The charity’s new research on ‘holiday hunger’ focuses on Britain’s 4.1 million children – the equivalent of three times the population of Birmingham – who are living in poverty and at risk of going hungry in the school holidays due to the loss of free school meals and breakfast clubs. Whilst Meals & More welcomes the Government investment of £9 million a year to tackle the issue, this will only reach 50,000 children! It is estimated that’s below 10 per cent of what’s actually needed in England alone.

Without support from holiday clubs, which are fast running low on funds and donations across the country, a child living in poverty may not receive the Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) for Nutrition, which in turn may affect their health & wellbeing.

This lack of food is also predicted to lead to health problems such as poor growth and type 1 diabetes for deprived children, with healthcare professionals warning of a rise in GP visits as a result of child malnourishment this summer. There are 13 weeks in the year when children are not in school. For families who are already struggling financially, the additional expense of covering childcare costs, activities and meals during this time can push them into serious financial difficulty. Just the absence of the provision of free school meals alone can cost families around £30 a week and holiday hunger has pushed many families into food insecurity, denying children a fundamental right to food.

Yet despite the statistics, half (49%) of UK adults polled have never heard of ‘holiday hunger’. Once aware, the majority are keen to help – 78% express concern about the issue, while 58% are keen to give food and 28% would donate money to support vital services in the UK’s most socially deprived communities.

According to the survey, a huge 87% of people were also concerned about the impact ‘holiday hunger’ has on a child’s health, while 80% were concerned about mental wellbeing and 47% worried about the effect it can have on a child’s education, which research suggests can be significant.

In addition, three quarters (74%) of those polled believed the Government needs to provide more funding in order to tackle the issue of child poverty and holiday provision.

Meals & More currently supports food & activity provision for 10 Delivery Partners and over 150 clubs across the UK, with 150,000 meals expected to be served in 2019 and demand is still growing. In July 2019, Meals & More received numerous enquiries for help and support from organisations across the UK, which shows demand is increasing significantly.

Meals & More established in 2015 has and will continue to be active in championing the cause of children living in poverty with national Government, politicians across England, the devolved administrations, industry and local communities through lobbying, providing evidence-based research and working in partnership to mitigate the effects of poverty, child hunger and isolation.

Meals & More believes the Call for Action to Government needs to focus on positive change and outcomes, bringing likeminded people together, creating the opportunity to improve life chances, contributing to happier, healthier children and families through the provision of nutritious food and enriching educational activities.

Every child matters and deserves to have a good start in life not just at school but throughout the year.

“Summer holidays should mean fun, but for millions of children it’s a period of uncertainty and stress for parents who do their best for their children in difficult circumstances,” says Peter McGrath, Meals & More Operational Director.

“Knowing that children are not getting the food they need should shock all of us. Meals & More partnerships contribute to supportive environments, boosting health, self-belief and aspirations.”