The pandemic has brought different societal issues to light as the impact of Covid-19 exacerbates inequality across our communities. One of these issues has been child food poverty.
We are extremely grateful to footballer Marcus Rashford for using his profile to highlight the shocking reality that millions of people, many of them children, are going hungry in the UK today. His efforts have put FareShare’s work into the spotlight helping to raise awareness of what is being done and inspire others to get involved.
Child poverty is not a new problem. A report published last year by the End Child Poverty coalition showed that almost a third of children across the UK live below the breadline, and that many families were already on a ‘cliff edge’ before the pandemic. Echoing this, the Trussell Trust reported a 73% increase in the use of food banks from the five years leading up to 2019.
Focussing locally, research from the Sussex Community Foundation in 2019 found that 37,000 children were living in poverty in Sussex, with the towns of Hastings and Eastbourne in particular having higher rates of child poverty than the national average.
Similarly, there are pockets of extreme deprivation within neighbouring Surrey, with 13 of its neighbourhoods within the 20% most deprived in the country. It was found that 10% of children across Surrey are living in poverty, two thirds of which are from working households.
Impact of Covid-19
Since the pandemic – bringing job losses, school closures, shop shortages, rising health issues and isolating households – child food poverty has risen. Five million people in households with children experienced food insecurity since the first lockdown (Food Foundation 2020). This is double the level of food insecurity among households with children reported by the Food Standards Agency in 2018. It has also disproportionately affected people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups due to their overrepresentation in the sectors most strongly hit by the virus.
Covid-19 has impacted considerably on the financial wellbeing of families and their ability to meet their children’s basic needs. 83% of frontline workers have seen an increase in the need for foodbanks and nearly 50% of the families they support were unable to afford food. Food poverty was found to have a significant impact on the ability for children to access education as well as raising tensions in families increasing mental health and behavioural problems amongst children. (Buttle UK)
In our hometown, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership reported that families were where the largest rise in food bank use came from last year. At the height of the first lockdown, in Brighton & Hove alone 3,001 food parcels were being given out per week and 3,966 meals. Building on a yearly growth in food bank use, this year saw a staggering increase of 374% between July 2019 and July 2020.
Headed by Marcus Rashford, the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign and the Child Food Poverty Task Force – of which FareShare are a part – led to a significant funding package from the Government, but there is still more to be done.
One of their members is Plant Stories, a community focussed food business who specialise in supporting small start-up food businesses with kitchen space and a network of support. In such uncertain times, co-owners Gemma Ogston and Aye Mya Oo were driven to give back to their community by providing meal packages for families on low incomes during the school holidays.
Because we are both working mums, we know how hard school holidays can be. We understand that some families who would have normally received school lunch vouchers are suddenly with no helps to feed those children whilst in the holidays.
Over Christmas 2020, they provided over 100 packages to families of Coombe Road, Longhill and Moulsecoomb schools. The packages included veg chilli, hidden veg pasta sauce, lentil and veg soup as well as treats like flapjacks, apple crumble, along with a £20 Aldi voucher and a recipe booklet.
“We wanted to feed the family, not just the kids so that it can relieve a little stress as well as encourage sharing food and quality time together.”
FareShare have been so helpful in providing the food that we can turn into tasty meals. Without them we’d be much more limited in what we could offer.