According to new statistics from The Food Foundation, more households with children (aged 17 and under) are suffering food insecurity than during the Covid-19 pandemic’s initial wave.
15% have faced food insecurity in the last six months. These levels are roughly 27% higher than they were prior to Covid.
Additionally, food costs have been continuously higher in the first six months of this year compared to the end of 2020.
The organisation has now teamed up with Manchester United and England player Marcus Rashford MBE to urge people across the UK to write to their Member of Parliament in support of their campaign to eradicate child food poverty.
The Food Foundation thinks that current record levels of food insecurity may be decreased by ensuring households have the financial resources to purchase sufficient food (whether through employment or welfare payments).
Government programmes such as Free School Meals and Healthy Start also assist to ensure that children receive some basic nutrition protection while developing and learning. At the moment, many children living in food insecure homes are excluded from these programmes.
According to the most recent statistics, 17% of parents whose children are not eligible for free school meals and do not eat frequently from the cafeteria do so because school meals are costly, which means they may miss lunch or rely on packed lunches.
However, less than 2% of packed lunches adhere to Government recommendations for a nutritious and balanced school meal, with excessive amounts of sugar and/or salt found in lunchboxes across the UK.
According to new data, 80 percent of individuals in England favour expanding the eligibility for Free School Meals to all children suffering food insecurity.
Marcus’s three proposals, which are part of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy, will ensure that every kid at risk of hunger receives some nutritious food on a daily basis.
They are as follows:
- Extend eligibility for Free School Meals to all children aged 7-18 living in homes earning less than £20,000 after benefits, as well as to children who are undocumented or living in households subject to the NRPF immigration condition.
- Long-term financing for the Holiday Activities and Food Program, expanding eligibility in accordance with the extension of Free School Meals.
- Expand eligibility for Healthy Start to all households earning less than £20,000 after benefits with pregnant women or children under the age of five and engage in a communications campaign to promote awareness and participation in the scheme.
Marcus Rashford said: “Whilst we’ve come a long way in the last 20 months, placing the issue of child food poverty at the forefront, devastatingly, the issue is getting worse not better.
“The entire nation got behind the national team this Summer so let’s put these figures in football terms:
“You can fill 27 Wembley stadiums with the 2.5 million children that are struggling to know where their next meal might be coming from today.
“What is it going to take for these children to be prioritised? Instead of removing support through social security, we should be focusing efforts on developing a sustainable long-term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic.
“I am, today, pledging my support for 3 recommendations from Part 2 of the National Food Strategy. I hope that we see the required investment pledged during the Autumn Spending Review. I will be writing to my MP about it, and I would encourage you all to do the same.
“It will take many of us to stand together on this, and show we care about reaching those most in need in our communities.”
Anna Taylor, Executive Director of Food Foundation said: “It’s extremely distressing that now even more children lack a secure, nutritious diet compared with last year.
“Despite a sense of ‘normality’ returning, this is no time for complacency – we can’t sit back and allow this damage to our children’s health, learning and life chances, not to mention the heavy burden it bears on our NHS.
“We know children from deprived backgrounds have higher obesity rates, worse levels of diabetes, more tooth decay and even impaired height development compared with their wealthier peers.
“This will only get worse if left unaddressed and entrench inequalities deeper. So, today, we are asking Government to act appropriately to protect our youngest citizens.
“An investment in the Autumn spending review to expand eligibility for Free School Meals and Healthy Start and commit to long-term funding for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme will guarantee children at risk of hunger some good food every day.”