Why we’re fighting holiday hunger: foodbank demand up 20 per cent last summer

Leading UK foodbank charity The Trussell Trust reported the rise, demonstrating why we need to ensure that parents on the breadline can feed their children over the summer holidays

Trussell Trust foodbanks gave out 20 per cent more emergency food parcels last summer as holiday hunger began to bite.

The national foodbank charity distributed 87,496 parcels to children while they were off for their school holiday in 2018, dwarfing the number given out in 2017.

While the children are off school in the summer, they miss out on free school meals, leaving parents to provide the extra meal – and when they are already on the breadline it can push them towards foodbanks to feed their kids.

The Big Issue has launched a campaign to tackle holiday hunger in the last couple of weeks, calling for your experiences and offering a platform for those selfless people and organisations who are giving a hand up to those in desperate need over the summer.

As schools in England and Wales break up this week, joining Scottish kids who are already off for the summer, the Trussell Trust is urging people check what items their local foodbank is most in need of.

The charity has also warned that foodbanks should not be a long-term solution to hunger and is urging the government to end the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments to ensure that families are not left without the cash to buy essentials.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “Foodbanks will do all they can to help families over the summer, with many running holiday clubs to support parents who find that their income simply won’t stretch to meet the extra pressure of missing free school meals or paying for additional childcare during the holidays. But no charity can replace the dignity of having enough money for the basics.

“While it’s great to see schemes in place to tackle holiday hunger, foodbanks and other emergency food provision cannot, and must not, be a long-term solution to poverty. Ultimately, we should all be protected from needing a foodbank’s help, no matter the time of the year.”

Meanwhile, childcare bills also eat into parents’ coffers over the summer, costing up to £828 over six weeks, according to a new study by Coram Family and Childcare’s Holiday Childcare Survey.

The average £138-per-week cost to most parents is up three per cent since last summer and is more than double the cost of term-time afterschool clubs.

With the added burden of having to pay costs upfront, it can leave families on Universal Credit struggling to make ends meet and forced into debt or to head to foodbanks to feed their children.

Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “Working families are being left with few options this summer. The high price and low availability of childcare means that many struggle to stay in work, or can end up paying to work. Families need to see urgent action to fill the gaps in availability and financial support.”

Tell The Big Issue how holiday hunger affects you at editorial@bigissue.com. We want to shout about the wonderful, selfless groups and individuals offering a hand up.