For families of low income in the UK, the holidays, in particular the summer holidays, can be a very difficult time; causing stress, isolation, poor health and food insecurity. During terms time children in families on low-incomes, or in receipt of benefits are entitled to free school meals (which are actually universally free in Key Stage 1), and possibly breakfast and after school clubs too. But during the holidays without this provision, many parents struggle to feed their children. Research has shown how this food insecurity can have highly detrimental effects on children’s academic, social and physical development. One study demonstrated how reading and mathematical performance in this instance are impacted on, and girls face greater weight gains.
A report on food poverty has revealed the extent of food poverty in England and Wales where 2.4 pupils in every class in England and Wales will arrive at school hungry at least once a week which means they would lose 70% of a term’s learning over the whole of their primary school life. This is clearly unacceptable.
As part of the Tackling Food Poverty Sub Group, two Dietetics Masters students from Kings University were commissioned to investigate the provision of out of school meals such as breakfast and holiday clubs to assess what services Greenwich residents can currently access. Their report showed very limited opportunities for families to access meal provision during the holidays, and in fact many service providers were unaware that this is even a problem.
They visited many providers and sent schools, community centres and food banks a survey to find out what, if any, food was provided and in what context. There are a couple of very good examples of providers addressing this need such as Charlton Manor Primary School who run a Community Garden Growing scheme over the holidays, or Middle Park Community Centre who run a great pre and after school club, but many places reported real barriers when trying to address the problem. The main challenges were overwhelmingly associated with funding and resources, but many providers were interested in receiving more information about how they could implement provision.
The report also looks at successful projects around the country and makes some excellent recommendations. In fact, the report is so unique that it was picked up by the Holiday Hunger Task Force and is mentioned in their Filling the Holiday Gap report and which was presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food.
We would like to thank students Jasel Burroughs and Robert Green, and Kings College for providing the students to work on this important piece of work.