Holiday hunger can drive kids to “eating toilet paper” says charity

The Childhood Trust chief executive Laurence Guinness told the heart-breaking story that demonstrates why The Big Issue has been campaigning to stop children starving over the summer

Kids are forced to “eat toilet paper” to stave off holiday hunger, according to a child poverty campaigner, demonstrating why urgent action is needed to feed children who miss out on free school meals over summer.

The Childhood Trust chief executive Laurence Guinness told The Daily Express that an eight-year-old boy had taken the drastic steps in a primary school he had worked at, saying: “It makes my tummy pain go away”.

The charity boss also spoke of how a 15-year-old boy was forced to sell drugs in exchange for food and how, in North London, kids aged just 12 were forced to scavenge bins to beat hunger.

“The fact children in a prosperous country like Britain cannot get enough to eat every day is shocking, and the empty promises made by politicians in this context obscene,” said Guinness.

“This is hidden Britain and sometimes it breaks your heart to see it.”

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The heart-breaking tales of life on the breadline came as another charity, Meals and More, revealed that as many as four million children may now be at risk of holiday hunger, with parents who struggle to fill the gap left by the loss of free school meals.

As many as half of these children are aged under five, according to the figures, which is a proportion up 51 per cent since last year.

One of the MPs behind the Feeding Britain network, Frank Field, wrote in the Parliamentary Review this week that new Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is engaging with campaigners and charities to bolster Britain’s strategy to end holiday hunger.

“Gavin Williamson is keen for our country to take this giant leap towards equalising children’s life chances,” said Field.

“Having embraced our dual role, as social entrepreneurs and legislators, MPs from the Feeding Britain network are ready to present him with a blueprint for an effective, comprehensive programme that is backed up with sufficient funds and will deliver the results that are expected by the taxpayer.”

The Big Issue has been campaigning against holiday hunger all summer long, offering a platform for the groups working so hard to stop it, shining a light on the people affected by the issue and speaking to the MPs campaigning to tackle it.

Even as the summer ends and the kids go back to school we’re still looking to hear from the people, charities and community groups making a difference and tackling holiday hunger in their area. To get in touch, contact us at editorial@bigissue.com.

Image: Getty