THE SALVATION ARMY HAS SEEN an unprecedented demand for support from worried parents in recent months, with children at risk of going hungry being referred by teachers, health visitors and GPs.

The church and charity, which is based in over 600 locations in the UK, expects to provide thousands of cooked meals and essential food parcels to children during the summer, and is seeing families pushed into poverty by the rise in the cost of living struggling to feed their children.

Salvation Army Community Manager in Sheringham, Carol McKean, said: “I constantly hear the phrase ‘I’ve never had to claim benefits before’, normally said by people crying in the office, who look broken asking for help. I know that for these people, we are the last resort. They really are short of food for their kids, and some are saying they haven’t eaten for a couple of days so their kids can eat.”

Amanda (not her real name), a mother from Swindon, used to run her own company but fell on hard times when she fled an abusive relationship. She said: “The children have school meals, and when they don’t have these during the holidays, all day long they are telling me they’re hungry. Though my children are entitled to food vouchers, the amount has been halved despite prices going up. I’ve worked out I am £165 short every month, and that’s just for my bills. I’ll go several times a week without a main dinner and just having beans on toast for breakfast. I don’t care about myself as long as my children eat.”

Local Salvation Army churches and community centres that plan to provide free food for children during the school holidays include:

  • A Food Hunger Programme in Gateshead, which will offer free breakfast and lunch for local children plus food to take home to their families twice a week throughout the six-week summer holidays.
  • A Summer Club in Anderton, Glasgow that will serve up a hot meal for up to 60 primary school age children.
  • A partnership with local schools in Reading Central giving healthy meals to families over the school holidays.
  • A Summer Camp in South London, which will give free places to children whose parents are struggling financially, that guarantees them three meals a day.

The Salvation Army’s Lieutenant-Colonel Dean Pallant said: “When I hear Salvation Army officers report that ‘people are on the bones of their knees’ and they have seen children who are ‘anorexically thin’ it sounds like something from 1865 when The Salvation Army was founded not 2022.

“Emergency Government payments to help low income households with rising energy costs will certainly bring some desperately needed relief to struggling families. But these short-term measures only provide a temporary sticking plaster on a long term crisis. To protect people from sinking further into poverty over time we are calling for all benefits intended to help people on low incomes to keep up with inflation.

“We have already seen a surge in demand at our food banks since the start of the cost of living crisis. We are now braced to feed more children than ever over the next few weeks.”

The Salvation Army is calling for the Government to introduce long term help for people struggling with the cost of living that would include:

  • All benefits intended to help people on low incomes to keep up with inflation.
  • Existing Universal Credit debt to be covered in the Government’s 60 day ‘Breathing Space’ scheme, giving people more time to make repayments.
  • Expansion of free childcare provision so parents can afford to work or train.
  • A new cross-Government task force to tackle, with empathy and compassion, the reasons people are not earning and are trapped in poverty.

* Source: The Salvation Army