More children are going hungry during summer holidays, say teachers

By agency reporter
August 4, 2018

A snapshot survey of 657 secondary teachers by the National Education Union shows the growing concern amongst teachers that young people are not getting enough food to eat over the summer holidays.

Teachers said they thought holiday hunger is affecting more children now than three years ago and there was a strong concern that local initiatives designed to tackle it – including food banks – are not equipped to meet demand.

  • More than half (59 per cent) of NEU members polled confirmed that children in their school experienced holiday hunger.
  • 77 per cent of respondents said that in the last three years the situation in their school had either got worse (51 per cent) or stayed the same (26 per cent).
  • When asked about local provision outside of school designed to tackle holiday hunger, teachers pointed to food banks (50 per cent), charitable/voluntary organisations (26 per cent) and faith groups (19 per cent).
  • 59 per cent felt that the combined provision in their area was insufficient to tackle holiday hunger. By contrast, just five per cent thought that it would be enough.

Amongst the additional comments on the survey, members said:

  • “Too many people don’t know how to get to those provisions and less funding and donations means less food available for families.”
  • “I don’t think everyone that needs help uses or is aware of the help available. Services are overstretched as it is.”
  • “I see children come back to school in September looking visibly less well nourished.”
  • “There is no co-ordination and often these families fall into the divide and suffer badly.”
  • “We have 51 per cent [of students on] free school meals and I’ve seen no local provision.”
  • “When many of our children are struggling to get enough food during term time (when over 50 per cent get at least one good meal per day as they are FSM), the problem will obviously be exacerbated during the holidays.”

Commenting on the findings, Ros McNeil, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Teachers are acutely aware of the devastating effects of holiday hunger on children’s mental and physical wellbeing. Such extensive poverty simply should not exist in a country with the fifth-largest economy. Food banks, faith groups and charitable/voluntary organisations are now being left to pick up the pieces where central Government has failed. Indeed, rather than fix the problem of child poverty, the Government has instead attempted to redefine it.

“Of the services available, demand will clearly outstrip supply. It is shameful that the safety net is so threadbare. The Government must take steps to tackle the issue of holiday hunger through properly funded and resourced programmes. Given the scale of the problem the Government’s announcement of £2 million additional funds to help disadvantaged children with food and fun over the holidays, while welcome, goes nowhere near far enough to tackle the desperate plight of families and children.”

The survey was conducted over the weekend of 28-29 July 2018.

* National Education Union https://neu.org.uk/

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