DfE spending £2m on tackling holiday hunger

Summer schemes to offer free meals amid reports of pupils rummaging through classroom bins for scraps during term-time

The government needs to come up with a strategy to end child hunger in the UK, says Labour MP Mary Creagh

The government is spending £2 million on free meals for families during the summer holidays amid concerns that pupils are increasingly reliant on schools for food handouts.

A series of government-backed projects have been set up to help provide healthy food and activities in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

The bid to combat holiday hunger comes after a Tes investigation earlier this year into holiday hunger found that more and more teachers were coming across pupils who were not getting enough to eat at home.

Teachers have reported finding pupils rummaging in bins for scraps of food, stashing free fruit in their pockets, and complaining of empty stomachs.

A snap online poll by Tes at the time found that 90 per cent of teachers said they had provided food for undernourished pupils.  

The £2 million fund addressing holiday hunger was first announced in March.

Today, the government has listed the organisations that have successfully bid for part of this funding to provide children, teenagers and parents with activities such as drama, football, music or arts.

All projects will include at least one free meal for each child.

The organisations running the projects include:

  • StreetGames, which will support 1,700 children and young people to provide activities such as cooking, arts and active play in 80 venues
  • Family Action, which will put on classes in food preparation, cooking, budgeting, music, drama, crafts, physical activity and growing food for children and their parents or carers in 40 settings, and
  • Birmingham Holiday Kitchen, which offers free family wellbeing activities pre and primary aged children and their families during school holidays. 

Nadhim Zahawi, children and families minister, said: “These projects will provide a range of support for families during the summer break. They will also give children access to experiences that won’t just create great memories but will help broaden their horizons and build the confidence they need to succeed in whatever path they choose to follow.”

Lindsay Graham, an independent policy advisor who has campaigned on holiday hunger, said: “The school holidays can be a challenging and costly time for families, particularly for those on a limited income or whose children are reliant on term-time free school meals.   

“The need for community-led enrichment opportunities for children, young people and their families is paramount for helping the most disadvantaged in our society. Early research in the UK is telling us that these types of projects can make a difference.”

The other organisations running projects are: Children North East, Feeding Britain, On Side Youth Zones and TLG (Transforming Lives for Good).

There is also due to be a bidding process for similar projects in the 2019 Easter and summer holidays.

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