Social Justice

Only 5 of 33 London boroughs helped children stay fed during the holidays

Islington topped the league table for local authorities taking action on food poverty

cans and boxes of food sit on a shelf. children in poverty are being offered tiny amounts in parcels sent to replace free school meals

As many as 28 London boroughs are letting school pupils go hungry during the holidays because they haven’t invested in services that tackle food poverty.

The fifth London Food Poverty Profile report, which measures food poverty-busting efforts in the capital each year, showed that work across the capital to sustain “vital lifelines” like holiday hunger provisions and meals-on-wheels has been poor in most areas.

Only five boroughs out of 33 funded holiday clubs and other services that plugged the gap left by the loss of free school dinners for low-income families during the holidays, while just six were supporting elderly and housebound people with meals on wheels services.

The report also measured each borough’s promotion of Healthy Start vouchers and the Unicef UK ‘s breastfeeding initiative, where there has been significant improvement.

Between April 2018 and March 2019 the Trussell Trust handed out 166,512 parcels in London, making the city the third highest in volume of emergency food received. Earlier research showed that nearly two million Londoners – around 400,000 under-16s – struggle to afford enough to eat.

The report was released by alliance for better food Sustain and the London Food Poverty Campaign (LFPC), backed by the Trust for London and Mayor of London.

Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed, coordinator of the LFPC, said there have been “some improvements” in the approach to tackling food poverty, but that it remains a serious issue in the capital.

She added: “This must serve as a stark reminder that a lot of Londoners lack the resources to meet their basic human needs. Nobody should have to go to bed hungry, and London councils can do much more to prevent this.”

Researchers produced a league table which showed Islington, Croydon and Southwark were doing the most to fight food poverty in their areas.

Several boroughs, including Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Ealing did not respond to the survey. Of those that did, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames and Barking and Dagenham proved to be making the least progress.

Campaigners behind the report called for borough leaders to take action on worsening poverty with a list of recommendations including affordable childcare, council tax cuts for low-income residents and improve breakfast clubs.

Meanwhile, experts at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen have released a concerning study that sets out the impact food poverty has on the long-term health of people in Scotland.

The research, carried out in conjunction with Community Food Initiatives North East, showed that most people who have to rely on food banks have three or more serious health conditions, dubbed an “economic vulnerability” health risk that GPs must be aware of.

Principle investigator Flora Douglas said: “People’s capability to self-care is being undermined by food insecurity in Scotland.

“The individuals we interviewed have in-depth knowledge of the diet they need to follow. They just couldn’t afford to do so, even if they were in work.

“Most of our participants reported eating just one meal per day or going for several days without food, opting instead to put food on the table for their dependents or to pay bills.”

The Trussell Trust distributed 210,605 emergency food parcels across its 50 foodbanks in Scotland between 2018 and 2019.

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