You probably already know that KiddyCharts is a social enterprise if you have been following us for long enough. Child food poverty is something that breaks my heart, so let’s see what needs to be done, and how we might all be able to help.
What’s the scale of child food poverty in the UK?
It is hard to conceive just how many children in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. Even before the pandemic struck, a staggering 4.2 million children lived below the poverty line. The pandemic has really escalated this, driving scores of families to food banks as they struggle to make ends meet. The inability to secure sufficient levels of decent food is known as food poverty, or food insecurity, and can affect children who have parents on a low income or who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. In the last six months, 14% of parents have experienced food insecurity, affecting 2.3 million children living in their households.
This results in children eating smaller meals or less healthy meals, skipping meals, or even going a whole day without eating. Many families in deprived areas suffer from food insecurity particularly during the holidays, compounded by increased bills, more mouths to feed and added costs of childcare. Food insecurity is both an immediate worry and carries a long-term cost for kids, likely to affect their relationships, grades, and mental and physical health.
(Source for data: The Food Foundation)
Who is helping these children?
The Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford has been using his time off pitch to campaign against child food poverty in the UK. In the summer, he won a successful campaign to get the Government to extend free school meals to vulnerable pupils over the summer holidays – something they had refused beforehand. Since then, the 22-year-old striker has continued to raise awareness of the devastating impact of child food poverty, drawing on his own experience of using food voucher schemes as a child.
The award-winning actor Emma Thompson (who starred in Nanny McPhee, Beauty and the Beast and Harry Potter) has also been campaigning to stop children going hungry for the past two years. She is the ambassador for the Food Foundation’s Children’s Right2Food Campaign working with a team of youth campaigners to raise awareness about child food poverty. Last year, she visited Downing Street with the Young Food Ambassadors to present their Right2Food Charter to Government.
These two influential activists are now joining forces to urge Government to take concerted action so that children from low-income families no longer fall through the net.
What action are they taking?
With support from many businesses and third sector organisations, Marcus and Emma are calling for three key actions from Government. They are:
Give Free School Meals to more children
Free School Meals provide an essential nutritional safety-net for disadvantaged children, which is now more important than ever due to the impact of Covid. A recent survey found some 600,000 children were worried about not having enough food for lunch at school this term. Extending the scheme can help make sure they don’t have to worry about this.
Expanding holiday programmes so that children on Free School Meals don’t go hungry during the holidays
There are an astounding 1.4 million children aged 8-17 in the UK who experienced food insecurity over the summer holidays. More than 1 in 10 reported that either they or their family had visited a foodbank. Hunger does not take a holiday and children who rely on Free School Meals during term time need that support when schools are closed.
Increase the value of the Healthy Start vouchers
This program enables low-income parents with children under 4 or pregnant women to buy fruit, veg and milk. Extending this will help make sure more children have a nutritious start in life, which is crucial when young people are growing and developing.
What can you do to help child food poverty today?
Join Emma and Marcus to put a stop to child food poverty and make a difference in millions of children’s lives. Here are five simple ways you can do this:
Sign the petition
Marcus Rashford has launched a petition asking Government to implement these three vital recommendations without delay. He is calling on fellow sports stars, celebrities and top chefs to sign the petition too, but he also needs support from the public. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will trigger a debate in Parliament but many more are needed to show Government just how important this issue is. You can sign the petition here.
Pass the petition on to your friends
Share the petition with your friends, colleagues and family to raise awareness of the campaign and mobilise them to sign and share it too.
Shout about it on social media
Once you’ve signed the petition, share it on twitter or other social media networks and explain why you are supporting this campaign. Don’t forget to use the #endchildfoodpoverty hashtag. You could also take a photo of yourself holding up an #endchildfoodpoverty sign to raise awareness.
Write to your MP
MPs will be having many debates and votes about the issue of child food poverty over the coming weeks. Write to your MP now and tell them exactly why stopping children in the UK going hungry matters to you. Using compelling evidence like facts and stats as well as your own views and experience will help push them towards urgent action. Find out where your local MP stands on the issue and what they’re doing to support food insecure children where you live. To find your MP’s name and address you can simply type your postcode into this website: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP.
To understand the scale of food insecurity in your local area, you may wish to volunteer with a local food bank or a front-line charity who support vulnerable families. Speaking directly to people in your community who are affected by food insecurity will arm you with knowledge and insights to continue as a campaigner and make real change in your local area. You can also find out more about campaigning on children’s food via the charity the Food Foundation – see www.foodfoundation.org.uk. You can also find out more stats about children’s food insecurity from our new Children’s Right2Food Dashboard.
Do take a look at these campaigns, and see what you can do to help – follow on social media too with the #endchildfoodpoverty hashtag as well.
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Hope to see you again soon – visit our printables for fun activities for the kids before you go, we’d love to see you there too!