Money raised from the tax on sugary drinks should be ploughed into ensuring children don’t go hungry during school holidays, a group of MPs and peers has said.
So-called ‘holiday hunger’ affects up to three million youngsters across the UK because the school break places extra pressure on family budgets and free school meals are not available.
In a strongly worded report about the “major social evil”, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger said the lack of school meals in holiday time can add £40 a week to family food bills. It said school staff notice children coming back for the new term hungry and sluggish.
And it means pupils from poorer families can be left behind their better-off peers academically, the group said.
They urged the government to ring-fence 10 per cent of the sugar tax – to be introduced next year – to ensure children are fed properly during the holidays. This could cost just £1.50 per child per day.
It would mean that councils would each be given £100,000 for schemes providing “free meals and fun”.
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Group chair, Labour MP Frank Field, spoke of the “horror of hunger” for some children, and hailed “heroic efforts” by local activists to combat it.
But he said government had to step in to help stamp it out, adding: “Abolishing hunger during school holidays is beyond the ability of individual community groups and volunteers alone.”
Simon Shaw, food poverty campaign co-ordinator at the food and farming alliance Sustain said: “As we said in our submission to the inquiry, the school holidays can be times of great difficulty for families with children experiencing hunger, social isolation and learning loss.
“The proposed allocation of funding from the sugary drinks levy would be a positive first step to funding a nationwide programme of holiday food provision. We agree that local authorities can play a vital role in coordinating provision; central government must provide adequate funding to allow local authorities to deliver on this.”
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.